Last year, the Texans built an 11-1 record but couldn’t parlay the best start in team history into home-field advantage through the playoffs or even a bye week. At New England in the divisional round, Houston was blown out.
Once the dust settled on the season, fans and local media began to notice the chronic failure of quarterback Matt Schaub to show up in big games and/or big moments. So did the team; in the weeks preceding the 2013 season, both quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell and G.M. Rick Smith made it clear that Schaub needs to step up when the team needs him.
Schaub has instead begun the process of stepping out, throwing pick-sixes in each of the last three games and serving up the 58-yard interception return for a touchdown that allowed the Seahawks to force overtime. Where Seattle won.
The lost sends Houston to 2-2. The Texans easily could be 0-4.
Schaub is now under siege, with fans at Reliant Stadium booing and one group in the parking lot burning Schaub’s jersey.
Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle seized on the performance to coin a new term.
“Schaubenfreude: (noun) Pleasure derived by defensive player strutting into end zone with a Matt Schaub pick-six.”
The Texans nevertheless remain committed to Schaub. (Which hopefully means they’re more committed to Schaub than Tampa coach Greg Schiano was to Josh Freeman, given that Schiano said less than a week ago that he remains committed to Josh Freeman.)
“I’ve been here when it was 2-14 and there was hardly anybody in the stands, so I really don’t care about what fans think,” receiver Andre Johnson told reporters after the game regarding the jeers directed to Schaub. “A lot of them don’t understand what players go through. They can talk about what they want to talk about.”
They want to talk about Schaub. They want to boo about Schaub. They want to think about replacing Schaub with T.J. Yates or local favorite Case Keenum.
That mindset has yet to overtake the locker room, as far as anyone knows.
“I know most people won’t agree with me and think it’s strange, but I feel better now about my team than I have all year because we’ve got the formula, we’ve got the blueprint and we know how to do it now,” defensive end Antonio Smith told reporters after the loss. “We know how to believe in our self now. All we got to do now is iron out the little mishaps here and there and that’s all with playing within the framework of the team. No reason we should have lost this game; none whatsoever. The only reason why is because here and there we made a couple of mistakes, but the feeling that was in the stadium today, the feeling we had we have not had this year, and this game here is going to be the blueprint for what’s going to come.”
Still, Smith seems to realize that Schaub’s mistakes helped turn the win into a loss.
“I feel for anybody who goes through persecution, but all it does is make you stronger,” Smith said. “He can’t let what everybody else says define him, for nobody who speaks here on earth can define you as the person that you are. Now, he has to take the responsibility on himself to stand up and to step out of the trend that he’s in, but just because everybody is booing and saying things about him, it does not define Matt Schaub. He has to find what defines him.”
While Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt likewise said all the right things about Schaub, Watt made clear his belief that Sunday’s loss was the worst of Watt’s time with the team.
“I’m pissed off,” Watt told reporters. “This sucks. Nobody like to lose, especially like this in your own building. This isn’t fun.”
The chances of fun happening in six days are fairly slim, given that Houston goes to San Francisco to face the 49ers on Sunday Night Football. The loser will fall under .500 through five games.
If the loser is the Texans, the calls from local fans to lose the starting quarterback will only intensify.