From Paul Gallant of Houston’s SportsRadio 610 to CBS Sports.com’s Mike Freeman (who calls the team “frauds”), many are taking shots at the Houston Texans following Sunday’s 41-28 loss to the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the 2013 NFL playoffs.
It was a disappointing end to what was seen as a Super Bowl-or-bust year before the season. And for at least two-thirds of the regular season, it looked as if the Texans were one of, if not the top team in the league, as they entered Dec. 10 in Week 14 with a record of 11-1.
Then, in New England, much like the 42-24 loss on Sunday Night Football in Week 6 to the Green Bay Packers, the Texans were slaughtered by the Brady Bunch in a 42-14 beatdown on Dec. 10 on Monday Night Football in a playoff-like atmosphere.
Houston bounced back the next weekend with a 29-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts, analogous to the way the team rebounded from the loss to Green Bay — by beating the Baltimore Ravens 43-13 in Week 7.
However, the Texans finished the regular season in unceremonious fashion, falling to the Minnesota Vikings 23-6 and coming up empty-handed in Indianapolis, 28-16. What’s worse than entering the postseason with back-to-back defeats? Having a chance to nail down the No. 1 seed in the AFC and secure home-field advantage in each of the last two weeks.
Sure, Minnesota and Indianapolis weren’t terrible teams, as the Vikings and Colts both made the playoffs and had been playing for postseason contention down-the-stretch. The return of Indy’s head coach played a role in the Colts’ strong performance as well.
With that said, Houston had it in the bag and things could have been different this weekend if the Texans had the No. 1 seed. In fact, the team would have hosted the AFC’s fourth seed, the Ravens in Reliant Stadium.
In stead, they came away empty-handed in the divisional round on the road for the second straight year after beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the wildcard round. So who’s to blame for the team finishing no better than it did last year?
Quarterback Matt Schaub is understandably receiving much of the criticism.
By all means, his inability to show up in big games is one of the main reasons this team isn’t headed to the AFC Championship Game and with the coveted postseason momentum and home-field advantage.
For much of the year, I was in favor of seeing T.J. Yates have an opportunity.
Yates, 25, completed 82 of 134 passes (61.2 completion percentage) for 949 yards with 3 TDs to 3 INTs in six games (five starts) in 2011 in his rookie year filling in for Schaub, who had suffered a season-ending injury.
Yates also led the team to its first playoff win in franchise history over the Bengals, 31-10 last January before coming up a play or two short in the divisional round on the road against the Ravens.
The 2011 fifth-round pick (No. 152 overall) out of UNC completed just four of 10 throws in 2012 for 38 yards with o TDs to 1 INT. In the offseason, Yates was also seen as hands down one of the best backup QBs in the league.
Schaub, 31, isn’t a great quarterback. He’s a good NFL QB and is better than most, though.
And he isn’t the problem. In the past two games in the postseason, Schaub actually showed some serious emotion. He’s proven me wrong that he can be a leader can can deliver when it matters most.
In Week 16 (vs. MIN), Schaub completed just 18 of 32 passes for 178 yards. In the season finale (at IND), he completed 24 of 36 throws (66.7 percent) for 275 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Schaub passed for 262 yards on 29 completions of 38 attempts (76.3 percent) with 1 INT and no TDs against the Bengals and had pretty good game against the Patriots, passing for 343 yards and 2 TDs to 1 INT with a 66.7 completion rate (34 of 51).
The 6-5, 239-pound veteran quarterback completed 350 of 544 passes (64.3 completion rate) for 4,008 yards with 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in the 2012 regular season. He’s locked to stay in Houston through 2013 anyway.
“If anyone out there, any listeners, have lost confidence in me or this team, I don’t know what to say to them,” Schaub said on his radio show on KILT610 AM. “Everyone in this locker room gave it up as much as we could for each other, for our team, for our organization, for our city.
“Ultimately, we didn’t make enough plays in that ballgame to win the game, but we’re going to go right back to the drawing board, right back to that wall. We’re going to bust through it one of these days.”
Elite QBs don’t grow on trees. This is an outstanding team with a plethora of outstanding players. With a solid offseason (including a strong showing in the 2013 NFL Draft and 2013 NFL Free Agency), Houston will be a serious contender next year.
This team isn’t exactly loaded at wide receiver. As NFL Network’s Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk and Michael Irvin discussed following the Texans’ 41-28 loss on Sunday, this team needs a co-pilot — a very good veteran receiver opposite Andre Johnson.
DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin have plenty of potential, but this needs someone that can be a big threat right away. Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe and Victor Cruz (restricted FA) all look to be great options on the open market.
And Arian Foster could use the same type of help he had in 2011 with Ben Tate next season.
Moreover, you don’t win too many games when you give up 41 points. The loss of Brian Cushing earlier this year was a big blow and will be good to have him and the rest of the injured linebackers back in the fold. But the biggest positions to address this offeseason are with the front seven, mostly at inside linebacker, in the secondary, wide receiver, on the offensive line (mainly due to depth) and possibly running back.
Many teammates have come to the defense of Schaub, including All-Pro DE J.J. Watt. “Have they ever been in his shoes?” Watt said of Schaub’s critics via the Houston Chronicle. “If you want to sit here and question our quarterback, that’s fine. But every guy in this room believes in him. We all trust and believe that he can take us there. We’re not going to listen to what the outside world says.”
There were several players with some great tweets as well, as they thanked fans and look forward to next season.
Stay tuned for comprehensive coverage on the 2013 NFL Draft, the Texans and the rest of the NFL at Gridiron Grit.
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter.