By Brett DolanBy Brett Dolan
Photo Credits: Tom Pennington/Jamie Squire/Ronald Martinez

Photo Credits: Tom Pennington/Jamie Squire/Ronald Martinez

The running joke is that the most popular player on any football team is the backup quarterback. Frustrated Texans fans, in the midst of a four-game losing streak have taken that old axiom to a different level by rendering the third string quarterback their most popular player.

The losing streak, an injury to Matt Schaub and the general ineffectiveness of the offense has rendered an opportunity for that third string quarterback, Case Keenum, to start Sunday in Kansas City.

In explaining the elevation of Keenum to starter over T.J. Yates, Gary Kubiak referenced, “looking for a spark,” Thursday in his daily media interaction.

Arian Foster also answered questions about the possibility of the former Cougar quarterback providing a lift to a slumping team.

“He’s a young cat, so he gets real excited out there,” Foster said. I think he brings another element of his legs to the game. I’m excited to see what he is going to do.”

So are the legions of Texans fans. Andre Johnson referenced an aura about Keenum. The fans will be watching to see if Sunday is the beginning of an era.

Then again it could be just one start. The intrigue and unknown surrounding Keenum will soon be replaced by results against a stingy Chiefs defense in one of the NFL’s most inhospitable venues, Arrowhead Stadium. NFL quarterbacks may be born and not made, but their first starts indicate that success is rarely immediate. Most first starts have been more underwhelming than productive as the list below will indicate.

The Good:

Tony Romo– Texans fans may be more concerned about the possibility of a Romo like performance than mollified, but the Cowboys young gunslinger got his first start at Carolina in Week 8 of the 2006 season and lifted Dallas to a 35-14 win. Romo went 24-36 with 270 yards and a touchdown replacing Drew Bledsoe.

Drew Brees– Brees was given his first crack with the Chargers (Sept 8, 2002) against the Bengals and enjoyed a 34-6 victory. Brees went 15-19 with 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Cam Newton– Newton’s first start on Sept 11, 2011 came in a losing cause to Arizona. But it is hard to overlook 422 yards passing and 2 touchdowns thrown.

Colin Kaepernick– Replacing an injured Alex Smith, Kaepernick went 16-23 for 243 yards and two touchdowns in an easy 32-7 win over the Bears.

Matt Ryan– On September 7, 2008, Ryan tossed a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins, becoming the first quarterback to throw a touchdown pass on his first NFL pass attempt since Michael Bishop with New England in 2000. Ryan would finish his rookie season with over 3,000 yards passing joining Peyton Manning as the only two rooks to reach that figure.

The Bad:

Alex Smith– Smith didn’t enjoy much success over his first seven starts in the 2005 season, throwing one touchdown pass to 11 interceptions. Smith drew Manning and the Colts in his first start and mustered just a 9-23 performance with just 74 yards passing, committed five turnovers and was sacked five times in a 28-3 loss.

Matt Schaub– Ah yes, you thought the criticism of Schaub would be kept to a minimum this week. Revisiting Schaub’s first start won’t allow him a free pass. Filling in for Michael Vick late in the 2004 season, Schaub and the Falcons lost to the Saints 26-13 while he went 17-41 with 188 yards, zero touchdowns, two picks and was sacked three times.

Eli Manning– Manning was only able to help the Giants score 10 points in a 14-10 loss to Atlanta on November 21, 2004. Eli was 17-37 for 162 yards and 2 picks. Manning would earn just one win in his first seven starts. However in 2005 and ’06 he took New York to the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl in the 2007 season.

The So-So

Aaron Rodgers– Rodgers first season (2008) as the starter in Green Bay didn’t play out the way the Packers would have hoped, but in his first game he led the team to a 24-19 win over the Vikings throwing for 178 yards and one T.D. However the Pack won just six games that season and missed the playoffs.

T.J. Yates– Yates had the benefit of some playing time the previous week in Jacksonville, relieving an injured Matt Leinart. Starting against Atlanta on December 4, 2011, Yates went 12-25 for 188 yards and a touchdown in the Texans 17-10 win at Reliant.

David Carr– Texans fans won’t forget Carr’s first start because of the 19-10 inaugural win over Dallas. His numbers were still rather pedestrian, with a 10-22, 145 yard performance, and two touchdowns.

Tom Brady– Brady get points for producing points, 44 in fact in the Patriots 44-13 win over the Colts on Sept 30, 2001. Brady failed to throw for a touchdown on a 13-23 day and 168 yards. Brady would lead the Pats to the playoffs that season and would every year, except 2002 from 2001-2007.

Andy Dalton– The Katy native went on the road and earned a 27-17 win in Cleveland (Sept. 11, ’11) in his first start despite throwing for just 81 yards and a touchdown. By November, Dalton produced a perfect 4-0 record and the Bengals were off to the playoffs where they would be eliminated by the Texans.

The Spark:

Teams with playoff aspirations make quarterback changes because of ineffectiveness or injury, or both. Coaches are hoping for that spark. Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and yes, Tomy Romo were able to provide huge lifts to their respective teams.

Rivers– Rivers took over the QB1 position with the Chargers on September 11, 2006 after playing in only four games in 2004-2005. Rivers mustered just 108 passing yards in a 27-0 win over the Raiders, but it would mark the first of 14 wins on the season, losing only at Baltimore and Kansas City.

Roethlisberger– Big Ben earned his first opportunity on September 26, 2004, replacing an injured Tommy Maddox and had his first pass intercepted. He finished 12-22 for 163 yards and one score in a 13-3 win in Miami. Roethlisberger would run the table, going a perfect 13-0 to finish the regular season.

Which brings us back to Romo. Roethlisberger and Rivers took over early in the season and not six games in. Romo took over as the Cowboys starter during the seventh game of the season. He helped produce wins in five of the first six games. Dallas lost the last two regular season games and finished 9-7, forcing the team into a road playoff game in Seattle. The Cowboys were setting up for a short field goal try to win the game, trailing the Seahawks 21-20. At this point of the story, should Keenum rally the Texans to a post-season berth and a chance to win a playoff game, they would be advised to keep Shane Lechler holding on kicks.

Maybe Arian Foster provided Keenum the best advice looking back towards his first start. “Just go out there and don’t try to make the stage any bigger than it already is,” he said. “Yes, this is the highest level you can do it on, but it’s just a game. You’ve been playing this game for a long time.”



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