by MIKE MELTSER, SportsRadio 610By Mike Meltser

Much has been written and talked about the precipitous fall-off of the Texans offense at the end of the 2012 season, specifically as it relates to the play of Matt Schaub. I decided to take a look at the stats and investigate what went went wrong for Schaub, and when it happened.

The general takeaway most fans and analysts had from 2012 is that Schaub was better in the first half of the season. This is backed up to a degree by his overall splits: 63.9%, 12 TD, 4 INT, 96.8 rating in the first 8 games. The second half of the year saw Schaub put up these numbers: 64.7%, 10 TD, 8 INT, 85.6 rating.

It’s clearly a drop-off, but not necessarily a monumental one. Schaub’s season fluctuated fairly evenly from month to month; his QB rating was the highest in September, but also higher in November than it was in October.

The toughest thing to do with data is to parse out the “signal” from the “noise,” as Nate Silver would say. What do I mean? There’s a lot of numbers to deal with here, but we’re looking for the ones that mean something.

Schaub has been criticized for his clutch play, but he actually completed 69.8% of his passes (2 TD, 1 INT, 95 QB rating) in 4th quarters where the Texans led or trailed by 7 points or less.

What stood out in looking at Schaub’s splits is his lack of effectiveness on 3rd and long. The Texans’ QB was actually superb in 3rd and medium situations, completing nearly 60% of his passes, throwing 6 TDs against 0 INTs. 3rd and medium, in this discussion, is considered 3rd and 3-8 yards for a conversion.

But, take a look at Schaub’s numbers on 3rd (or 4th) down and 9+ yards to go: 60% completions, 0 TD, 4 INT, 43.8 QB rating. There were 43 such pass attempts in the 2012 season.

In stark contrast, Schaub put up very respectable, and even high quality numbers, in both 1st and 10, 3rd and medium, and 3rd and short yardage scenarios.

Does this trend hold up over his career?

In 2011, Schaub’s numbers on 3rd (or 4th) down and 9+ yards to go: 31 attempts, 38.7% completions, 0 TD, 2 INT, 32.6 QB rating. Not good at all.

Just to recap, that means the Texans offense hasn’t scored a single touchdown in 3rd and long, with Matt Schaub under center, in either 2011 or 2012.

Now we start to wonder if this is something that he’s had an issue with over his entire career. This is an interesting finding; Schaub actually excelled in this scenario in 2009/2010.

2010: 50 attempts, 72% completions, 1 TD, 0 INT, 106.3 QB rating

2009: 42 attempts, 64.3% completions, 1 TD, 0 INT, 95.7 QB rating

I view those numbers as pretty stark. We can always go back and forth on the value of QB rating (especially since ESPN seems to be relying more and more on their QBR stat), but I think we can all agree that there’s a huge difference between ratings in the 30s/40s and those in the 90s/100s. For some reason, Matt Schaub has become a far more ineffective passer on 3rd and long, over the past two seasons.

In the 2013 version of the NFL, I don’t think this is something to take lightly. Obviously, the Texans are a team built, especially over the last 2 seasons, to break defenses down with their running game. They want to stay on-schedule offensively, which means your 3rd downs are ideally in the 1-6 yard range. Still, it’s vital for a high-level attack to be dangerous on 3rd and long. You have to be somewhat explosive on those downs, presenting a threat to the opposing defense. Remember Andrew Luck’s back-breaking TD pass to TY Hilton in Week 17?

How does Schaub compare to other NFL QBs on 3rd and 9+ yards?

Aaron Rodgers: 45 attempts, 73.3% completions, 2 TD, 0 INT, 123.2 QB rating

Peyton Manning: 32 attempts, 52.3% completions, 3 TD, 1 INT, 92.3 QB rating

Russell Wilson: 37 attempts, 54.1% completions, 3 TD, 0 INT, 105.9 QB rating

Matt Ryan: 54 attempts, 61.% completions, 1 TD, 2 INT, 74.6 QB rating

Tom Brady: 52 attempts, 61.5% completions, 2 TD, 0 INT, 103.2 QB rating

Tony Romo: 63 attempts, 58.7% completions, 2 TD, 4 INT, 71.8 QB rating

Eli Manning: 47 attempts, 57.4% completions, 1 TD, 0 INT, 89.4 QB rating

Joe Flacco: 63 attempts, 58.7% completions, 2 TD, 0 INT, 95.9 QB rating

Andy Dalton: 52 attempts, 50% completions, 4 TD, 5 INT, 62.3 QB rating

A pretty vast gulf exists between the effectiveness of almost all of these QBs on 3rd and long, and where Schaub stands. Note that all of them were able to complete at least one touchdown pass in 2012, while Schaub hasn’t done it in 2 full seasons.

If I’m Gary Kubiak, these numbers are going to vex me for the entire offseason. We know that ideally, the offense will stay out of 3rd and long. But, and an offense will inevitably face these situations, you need to somehow become more explosive. Theoretically, a defense is willing to give up easy completions, which is why Schaub’s QB ratings are bizarrely low, even with a technically limited chance for a conversion.

This is a trend that has to change in 2013. Matt Schaub was able to hit receivers down the field fairly effectively in 3rd and long both in 2009 and 2010. For some reason, that down/distance has turned into a disaster zone for the Texans.

Mike Meltser can be heard on MaD Radio from Monday-Friday, 10am-2pm.

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