Matt Schaub gets a police escort to the interview room. He's the only Houston Texan who will be put on the dais this lost afternoon. He'll go there flanked by the Texans favorite cop — the guy who brings head coach Gary Kubiak to the interview room after every home game — and the team's senior director of communications Kevin Cooper.
But Schaub is very much alone. And he knows it.
There are few lonelier feelings in the world than being a veteran NFL quarterback who's thrown away a game. At least, not in sports. Matt Schaub is a good man down. There's no denying that part of the equation either. The 32-year-old Schaub is one of the great stand-up guys in all of sports. He never makes excuses, never tosses anyone else under the bus. Schaub always, willingly, takes the public hit.
He puts on his sports coat over his jeans and resolutely marches to that interview room.
Call it crazy all you want, but this Texans team could desperately use a little crazy right now.
This is an ultra-admirable approach, a sign of outstanding character. It's something that should ashame the few idiots who actually burn Schaub's jersey in the parking lot after this 23-20 giveaway overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
But it doesn't mean that Matt Schaub should remain the Houston Texans starting quarterback. There comes a time when things simply reach a breaking point, when one cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results.
That time's come for the Texans and Kubiak. The coach must be bolder than he's ever been before to save a season of Super expectations that is slipping out the door. One Pick-6 at a time. Kubiak must bench Schaub and go with someone else. He needs to look to . . . Case Keenum.
Oh, it'd be easy to shout down the idea as ridiculous. Especially considering Kubiak would have to bypass T.J. Yates, the man he named the No. 2 quarterback, to go with Keenum, who's watched the first four games in street clothes. Then again, it was ridiculous for Pete Carroll to name Russell Wilson his starting quarterback going into last season. And it was even more ridiculous for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to refuse to go back to the Alex Smith and his NFL-leading passer rating and stick with Colin Kaepernick instead midway through last season.
The Texans saw what T.J. Yates can do under regular season pressure late in the 2011 season when Yates held control of what's looking more and more like the most talented Texans team ever. They've certainly seen what Matt Schaub can and can't do.
Case Keenum is the talent who hasn't had his chance. Call it crazy all you want — and the fiercely determined Houston band of Case Keenum media haters surely will — but this Texans team could desperately use a little crazy right now.
It's too easy to chalk this game up as near miss that showcased the Texans' vast potential. That's what players like Antonio Smith and Owen Daniels try to do it.
"I know most people won't agree with me and they'll think it's strange, but I feel better about my team now than I have all year," Smith swears, standing in the middle of the locker room still dressed in his full uniform. ". . . We've got the formula, we've got the blueprint. We know how to do it now."
It's an understandable reaction from shocked, hurting, prideful players. And with the Texans out gaining the unbeaten 4-0 Seahawks by more than 200 yards (476 to 270) and holding control of the game until Schaub threw that Pick-6 with less than three minutes remaining on this Sunday, there seems to be some logic behind it.
"There's no reason we should have lost this game," Smith continues. "No way, no how. None whatsoever."
This brings up the fatal flaw in the "logic." The Texans lost because they have the wrong man playing quarterback in Gary Kubiak's offense. And that's not going to change unless Kubiak goes bold.
Matt Schaub's Fatal Feet
Schaub is not mobile enough, not enough of even a minor running threat, to run the type of effective offense Kubiak is intent on deploying. Keenum is. That much became more than clear in the preseason when the former University of Houston NCAA record breaker seized his chances and showed some nifty footwork — and a good arm.
Criticizing the call Kubiak makes on the third-and-4 that turns into the Seahawks not buying the roll fake for even an instant and Schaub forcing the ball toward Daniels while throwing under pressure and off balance is a loser's play. Kubiak does it, insisting he put Schaub in a "a bad situation." And Daniels all but does it, admitting to being "surprised" that the call isn't a run in that situation.
There are few lonelier feelings in the world than being a veteran NFL quarterback who's thrown away a game.
Kubiak's call is right. He's being aggressive. He's trying to put the game away. Heck, the Texans are on the Seahawks' 40-yard line. If you can't take even a little chance there . . . well, then you've got the wrong guy playing quarterback.
How can you fault Gary Kubiak for being proactive? You want him to meekly concede and punt the ball away in that situation?
"I don't ever second guess our head," tailback Arian Foster says. "That's our coach. We should have all executed the play better."
It says here that Case Keenum would have. Wade Phillips' Bulls On Parade defense is playing as dominate as it did in 2011 again (at least when Brian Cushing is on the field). This team is too good, too talented, too determined not to take a chance on a quarterback who could give them a real chance at a different destiny.
There's J.J. Watt standing in the locker room in blood-splattered white game pants, his nose split open and his heart bruised too.
"I'm pissed off," Watt says firmly. "This sucks. Nobody likes to lose — especially like this in your own building. This isn't fun. I was sick of it after one loss."
It's two straight Pick-6 Powered losses now, a 2-2 record and a place behind two other teams in their own division.
When is enough going to be enough?
Maybe Matt Schaub will enjoy an Alex Smith-type Kansas City rebirth in another NFL city someday. He's certainly talented enough and still young enough to pull it off. But do you really think he's ever winning big in Houston? Now?
"If you look at the stats, we kicked their butts," Daniels says.
But the Texans didn't have the quarterback.
Think Case Keenum is a crazy idea? What's truly insane is to surrender to the same, to decide that nothing can be better than a broken, tired status quo.