Andre Johnson Vs. Matt Schaub
It ends with Matt Schaub — who showed less emotion than Kenny Powers' robot back when he actually deserved to be an NFL starting quarterback — screaming at the longest-suffering Houston Texan, the brilliant receiver he held back for so long. No wonder why Andre Johnson walks right off the field and into the tunnel, leaving Schaub and the unfinished game behind.
Johnson probably cannot believe the absurdity of it all either.
It ends with Case Keenum — the best thing that's happened to Gary Kubiak this season, the one thing the coach could point to as justification for keeping his job through another disaster — watching from the sidelines, benched by Kubiak, as Schaub predictably botches the type of situation the mobile Keenum would be perfect for: Fourth-and-two at the Raiders' 3-yard line. No wonder why Kubiak offers a rationalization for the quarterback switch that not a single player who is asked about it can understand.
Ed Reed's not the only one who is done making excuses for absurd coaching decisions.
Oh, for the simple near glory days of the one-week Wade Phillips era.
You don't have to be Cortland Finnegan to know you're not winning a fight with Andre Johnson. Not in Houston.
The Texans aren't just losing now — with the franchise-record futility streak reaching eight straight with this 28-23 flameout to a bad Oakland team. They're coming apart at the seams.
Johnson characteristically turns out to be the most stand-up guy in the locker room, blaming himself for the screaming sequence that Schaub clearly seems to start. "I messed up," Johnson says. "I'll just put it like that. I messed up."
Schaub apparently feels Johnson doesn't fully complete the route on the fourth-and-seven play in the end zone that essentially ends the game (at least that's Johnson's view of the tirade). Which is sort of amusing considering Schaub inexplicably throws a pass short of the first down marker (sound familiar?) on the preceding fourth-and-two play (with the Texans only saved by false start call) — without getting yelled at.
Regardless, you don't have to be Cortland Finnegan to know you're not winning a fight with Andre Johnson. Not in Houston.
Johnson deserves better than these Texans, than this washed up Schaub, than a coaching decision that inexplicably benches the franchise's hope in his fourth career start. Andre Johnson is starting to look an awful lot like Barry Sanders, a blinding talent doomed to play for a franchise that just can't see the light.
"I'm under contract," Johnson says when asked if the Texans shocking struggles have made him reconsider his future with the franchise. "So I have to play my contract out. I can't do anything about that."
"I wasn’t the best thing for the team at that point, I guess."
Later, Johnson will say Houston is where he always wanted to be. No. 80 is not going to stomp his feet, scream and demand a change. Or a trade. Just like Keenum is not going to lash out at the stunning lack of faith Kubiak shows in him on this lost Sunday.
It's like the eight touchdown passes and one interception Keenum has thrown in the first 15 quarters of his NFL career, his first NFL game action ever, mean nothing. Kubiak remains fixated on trying to somehow resurrect Matt Schaub.
"I wasn’t the best thing for the team at that point, I guess," Keenum says in the locker room. "I respect the coaches' decision — and everything they do."
Case Keenum Doubted — Again
Kubiak owes Keenum a little more respect. And he owes everyone a more plausible explanation for an absurd benching. The coach chalking it up to "protection" issues, and the belief that Keenum isn't equipped to handle the changes the Texans needed to make on offense (Kubiak's postgame press conference rationale), doesn't exactly pass the smell test in the Texans locker room.
"I don't know anything about that," left guard Wade Smith says. "He changed the quarterback because he felt like that was the thing to do."
Andre Johnson is starting to look an awful lot like Barry Sanders, a blinding talent doomed to play for a franchise that just can't see the light.
"No," Johnson says when someone asks if a change in offensive approach necessitated Schaub's entrance. "We were running all the same plays we normally run."
When Keenum gets pulled, no one tells him about the so-called protection concerns either. Instead, he's hit with a simple, "Matt's going."
Kubiak somehow finds a way to make this loss feel even worse than all the other losses. He deflates even the hope Case Keenum provides. With Houston Rockets star James Harden and two presidents (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both there for Veterans' celebrations) in the house.
"I expected to start even when I was on the practice squad," Keenum says, answering a question about the new nonsensical quarterback "controversy" Kubiak's created out of thin air. "That's part of my mindset. I prepare to play."
Keenum shows flashes of what makes him good too. On one first quarter play, he rolls left, dodges charging Raiders linebacker Kevin Burnett and sidearm flings a dart to tight end Garrett Graham. That broken play turns into a 34-yard gain. Of course, when Keenum is sacked three plays later, the Texans walk off the field, having gotten nothing out of another drive.
The Texans hope keeps firing though. He'll dodge another rusher deep in the backfield and fire a ball that travels 50 yards in the air, hitting Graham for a 42-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter. It is Keenum's third 30-plus yard completion in the game's first 18 minutes. The Texans are suddenly within 14-7.
Watching from his new more healthy-friendly perch in the press box, wearing glasses, Kubiak can't help but give a little smile.
Hours later, no one is smiling. Keenum says all the right things. Just like the ever loyal Andre Johnson plays the good solider and shoulders the responsibility for the Schaub scream out.
Still, the strain is unmistakable.
"We good," Keenum commands more than asks the media horde around his locker, ending his interview short, much like his day.
Even Hope is leaving the building. And Gary Kubiak only has himself to blame.