In the bigger picture, it was meaningless. It was simply one pass on one play during OTAs. But the sight of newly-acquired DE Justin Tuck snagging an errant pass and taking it back for six had to have sent a cold chill down the spine of Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen — not to mention the guy who threw the pass, Matt Schaub.
After the disaster that was his 2013 season, a year in which he threw a pick six in four consecutive games, you couldn’t blame Schaub if he’d had a few twitches while watching Tuck take his pass to the house. But the veteran passer insists he’s suffering no lasting effects of his terrible year and that brighter days are ahead for him and the Raiders. And he couldn’t be more thrilled with the freedom and responsibility he’s been given in Oakland:
What’s great about (OC Greg Olson’s) offense is, as a quarterback you’re given a lot of tools to make adjustments, and make things right at the line of scrimmage. … In Houston, we had some audible systems and alerts. But as far as protection calls, freedom to change routes to put our guys in position to make plays, there’s some differences from what I’ve had in my past. At the stage of my career that I’m in, it’s refreshing to have that opportunity.
It would be easy to lay all of the Houston Texans‘ 2013 woes on Schaub’s doorstep. It would be easy to say that his 14 interceptions, his career-low 73.0 quarterback rating, and Houston’s 2-14 record were entirely his fault. It would all be easy to say, but it would also be quite disingenuous.
While Schaub certainly does bear his fair share of the responsibility for such an abysmal year, Houston had an offensive line more porous than even the Raiders’ line last season, and who couldn’t protect him. Outside of WR Andre Johnson, they didn’t have much in the way of offensive weaponry. And their defense that ranked among the worst in the league.
Taken as a whole, the Texans were a hot mess on both sides of the ball and while he certainly didn’t help, there was a whole lot more that went wrong for Houston in 2013 than just Matt Schaub.
Conscious of those facts – and believing that Schaub still has a lot left in the tank – GM Reggie McKenzie went to work this offseason, piecing together an offensive line with players like Austin Howard, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn. While perhaps not the most celebrated free agent linemen, they certainly have a reputation of being able to get the job done, and will keep Schaub off his back.
McKenzie brought in a veteran receiver in James Jones, a very reliable target – especially down in the red zone – but also a leader who can help groom the young, explosive talent the Raiders have in Rod Streater, Andre Holmes and Denarius Moore.
McKenzie also completely overhauled the defense with players like Tuck, Antonio Smith, C.J. Wilson, Lamarr Woodley, Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rogers – and then drafted young stud Khalil Mack to pair with second-year standout Sio Moore, giving the Raiders one ferocious defense that is capable of being among the league’s best.
And perhaps best of all for Schaub, he has a head coach in Allen who has been his biggest supporter and advocate, stating repeatedly that Schaub is his guy.
His line is better, he has weapons and he has a defense that will make some plays and keep opposing offenses out of the end zone. All of the pieces are in place for Schaub to resurrect his career and have a terrific season. McKenzie and Allen have staked their jobs on his success, and are no doubt hoping that one errant pass during OTAs is nothing more than that.