HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – When a football team is not playing well, frustrations mount especially when early expectations were high and players think they are better. Couple that with occasional fundamental lapses that cause bad execution and draw penalty flags, and eventually emotional responses ensue and become public.
That is what happened Sunday at Reliant Stadium during the Texans-Raiders game between Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Johnson with less than 2 minutes to play. The Oakland Raiders were leading the Houston Texans 28-23.
However, the Texans had engineered a yard-eating drive starting from their own 36 with 3:43 remaining and managed to advance the ball to the Oakland two-yard line. Following a couple of missed opportunities inside the 5-yard line, the Texans had a 4th down and 7 from the Raider 8-yard line to score after a third false start penalty by right guard, Brandon Brooks.
The play call was for Andre Johnson and unfortunately for the Texans, the City of Houston, Gary Kubiak, and all involved, the bullet pass from Schaub to Johnson in the end zone on what appeared to be a crossing route, was well defended by the five Raider defensive backs and fell incomplete. Game over!
Something then happened on the field of play that Houston fans and media are not accustomed. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson exchanged words in angry fashion which eventually caused Andre Johnson to leave the field before the end of regulation.
“Yeah, I saw it,” says Head Coach Gary Kubiak. “That’s just frustrations. It doesn’t bother me that players get mad. I hope guys get mad when things aren’t going well. But, we’ve got to be able to handle it. And we’ll handle it. Them two will handle it. It’s just frustration – what we’ve been going through and continue to go through today. Those two will handle it. They’ve played a lot of football together.”
“I messed up,” says Andre Johnson. “I’ll just put it like that. I messed up.”
Hard to see how Johnson could have “messed up” as he puts it. But, only Schaub, Johnson, and some members of the team really know. What ensued after the mess-up is what was so uncharacteristic of both.
Pro Bowl wide receiver, Andre Johnson, is soft-spoken and evenly-tempered while Matt Schaub has never been known to upstage his teammates, even in the most challenging times.
“It was just emotions – emotions of the game – a culmination of a lot of things,” says Schaub. “It’s stuff we’ll keep between us. He’s a great guy and a great competitor as am I – just heat of the moment, but things (that are) behind us.”
“We just exchanged some words – just heat of the moment,” says Johnson. “We came in the locker room and we talked about it. I’m not worried about that. We’ve played a lot of football together. Things like that happen.”
Did Johnson run the wrong route? Did he not display 100% effort on the play? Regardless, that’s the first time for public consumption and uncharacteristic especially in a game situation. That behavior is usually frowned upon and discouraged by coaching staffs at all levels.
JUST A MATTER OF TIME
Think about how the season began going back to training camp. The Texans were picked to compete in the Super Bowl. As it stands, the Texans and Super Bowl don’t even belong in the same sentence.
The Texans are seemingly mired with a multitude of issues, distractions, etc., – however you choose to define what they are experiencing as a result of losing.
It starts with the eight consecutive losses after Sunday’s 28-23 fall to the Oakland Raiders. It’s the health of Head Coach Gary Kubiak. Add to that, releasing Ed Reed who was an experienced winner and honest soul, but one who questioned whether or not his comrades and coaching staff had the ability to win a particular game. The Texans have stated that wasn’t the reason he was cut. Regardless, Ed Reed and $5 million are now with the New York Jets.
Complicating matters was the change at quarterback from Schaub, due to injury, to former Houston Cougar star, Case Keenum. That seemingly boosted the morale and spirits of a team and City as he impressed albeit during losses at Kansas City, versus the Indianapolis Colts, and at the Arizona Cardinals.
However, Kubiak surprised all with the switch from Keenum to Schaub with a little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter during the Texans-Raiders game. Might that have been the catalyst for the friction? The fans weren’t pleased judging from their reaction. Obviously, the players can’t and should not respond in the same manner as the fans. But, they are human and know exactly which quarterback gives them the best chance to win.
POSSIBLE REASONS FOR THE EXCHANGE
Call this fishing. However, Andre Johnson had experienced some real success with Case Keenum who threw for over 19,000 yards while at the University of Houston. Gary Kubiak rolled the dice on Keenum as an undrafted free agent and came up big. But, Kubiak has to see it through. Just like he was willing to give Schaub time to develop, he will need to do the same with Keenum, that is, if he has made the decision to make Keenum his starter.
Johnson might have that feeling but don’t look for him to say it. As he said in the post-game press-conference – he’s under contract and has to play out his contract. Johnson is a team player who won’t go against the grain. But, what happened Sunday made him react.
He was starting to develop chemistry with Keenum who has connected with Johnson for 5 touchdowns in three games, three against Indianapolis, and two versus Arizona. Johnson has a total of 5 touchdowns for the season – yes – those five.
Schaub and Johnson connected between the 20’s versus Oakland. But, they didn’t connect for a score. Johnson was targeted 17 times, but caught 10 for 116 yards. That’s a nice day’s work. But, playmakers want to score and score often. Keenum was giving Johnson that chance.
It’s really difficult to say whether or not Schaub can do that for Johnson at this point. But, it is known that people have different ways of venting their frustration. When the last opportunity to score in the 4th quarter dropped to the ground for the Texans on Sunday, Andre Johnson had to be thinking why the change at quarterback.
The moment would have been one to remember had the two connected for the win. More impressive would have been Kubiak’s hunch to insert Schaub – could have possibly ended the streak. But it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Schaub and Johnson snapped at each other during a moment of distress. As a result, Johnson walked off the field before the end of regulation. What should have been an in-house issue instead became public.
As Kubiak said, he wants his players to get mad when things don’t go well. But, I’m not sure if he wants them angry in the fashion that we saw on Sunday regardless of where the blame falls.
Follow me for the latest on twitter @coloranalyst