ALAMEDA — For one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, Matt Schaub wasn’t very good in 2013.
Photos by Ali Thanawalla/SFBay
In fact, he was one of the worst. On paper, at least.
But the Raiders feel confident Schaub can lead the team to victories this season — more than four, Oakland’s win total each of the past two seasons.
Raiders constraints on media forbid reporting which players have been practicing with the first team, but head coach Dennis Allen remains clear that Schaub is the starter:
“Everything is a competition, but I haven’t made any bones about the fact that we brought Matt Schaub in here to be a starter. He’s been a top-10 quarterback in this league. I think there are a lot of teams out there that would like to have a top-10 quarterback in this league and I think we have one. That’s the way we’re going right now.”
After Schaub’s disastrous season — 14 interceptions, with pick-sixes in four straight games — he’s doing what many on the team are focused on: reinventing themselves.
Nearly all of the armchair GMs around the country have heralded Schaub a bad quarterback. He’ll literally throw the game away. He’s lost all of his confidence.
But Allen, offensive coordinator Greg Olsen and general manager Reggie McKenzie have a case. Only a handful of quarterbacks in league history have had passer ratings over 90 for five straight seasons. A rough 2013 season broke the streak, but only after leading the Houston Texans to multiple playoff appearances.
Not to mention New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who has won two Super Bowls, threw almost twice as many. And he had a much better offensive line.
One look at Schaub’s interception tape makes it clear he had no pass protection. Schaub had an average of a second or less before multiple pass rushers were in his face through the first five games.
It’s why the Raiders invested so much into revamping their offensive line during the offseason.
As for his confidence, Schaub says that it pays off to have a short memory. But there’s no doubting he’ll be reminded every time he steps onto the field at O.co Coliseum.
The day after Al Davis passed away in 2011, Schaub threw an interception with six seconds to go, picked off in the end zone by Michael Huff.
Had the pass been completed, it would have been a touchdown and Houston would have won.
Nonetheless, Schaub has enjoyed his short time with Oakland. He looks every bit the seasoned veteran he’s supposed to be, and likes the way Olson runs the offense:
“What’s great about (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.”
Not once in his press conference following Tuesday’s OTA session did Schaub throw his former coaches or offensive line under the bus. And there’s no doubting his teammates noticed.
He’s reached out to rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who Oakland drafted in the second round of the recent draft. He’s taken his teammates to watch the Oakland A’s. He’s gone on the record calling his receiver group full of No. 1 receivers.
Schaub’s not worried about not having an established veteran target he’s known for years, a la Andre Johnson. He puts in a few hours every day to watch film and do other sorts of homework. All that, while juggling family responsibilities, such as helping one of his multiple children with their homework.
Schaub appears to be the stand-up guy with veteran savvy and leadership ability. The type of player the Raiders haven’t had to lead the team since Rich Gannon retired in 2005.
And they’re building behind him. Coach Dennis Allen looks excited about his team’s quarterback situation, and it showed when he said:
“Yeah, I think we have a heck of a quarterback room. And really, I think we’ve got four quarterbacks that can help this football team.”
Whether Schaub can right a ship that has sailed to only eight wins over the last two years remains to be seen. But it’s clearer than the sun setting on the Pacific: The Raiders are optimistic about the upcoming season.