The Houston Texans announced on Thursday that Case Keenum will start at quarterback on Sunday against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Keenum played his college ball at the University of Houston, where he set NCAA career records for passing yards (19,217) and touchdown passes (155). He gets the start at QB due to starter Matt Schaub’s ankle injury, suffered in last Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Rams.
Head coach Gary Kubiak is hoping hometown boy Keenum can spark the team, which has lost four in a row and sits at 2-4. The Texans were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender going into the season, as they were coming off of a 12-4 record and had returned nearly all of their key personnel. However, Schaub has had a rough go of it lately, and set an NFL record by throwing interceptions for touchdowns in four straight games. It had gotten so bad that when Schaub went down with his ankle injury on Sunday, the Houston crowd cheered him being hurt. The crowd reaction was heavily criticized.
T.J. Yates, who memorably filled in when Schaub was injured at the end of 2011 and won a playoff game against Cincinnati, did not look good in relief of Schaub on Sunday. He ended up throwing 2 INTs, one of them a pick-6. Therefore, Kubiak decided to forego him and go with Keenum. Keenum has been inactive in all 6 games this season, and spent the entire 2012 season on the practice squad after going undrafted. So, not only will this be Keenum’s first pro start, this will be the first time he’s even suited up for a regular season game.
Kubiak defended his decision on Thursday by stating that Keenum’s been in big games in college: “He’s been in big games, a lot on his shoulders, big stage, played in a lot of football games. I know it’s a tremendous opportunity. It’s what you work for as a kid. You get into this league and you look for an opportunity and, all of a sudden, here’s an opportunity for him very early in his career. We’re excited for him as a football team.”
However, Kubiak also knows that he is throwing Keenum into a tough situation, as he’s making his first pro start against an undefeated Chiefs’ team playing at home. Arrowhead Stadium is a notoriously tough place to play, and just last week the crowd set a world record for crowd noise. He had this to say: “We’re struggling, and we’re looking for a spark. I think he deserves an opportunity to go out there. It’s a tough place to play. It’s a tough place to get your first start and all that good stuff. But I’m not sending out there by himself. I’m sending him out there with his football team and the guys understand that.”
Right now, Kubiak is just trying anything to get his team going. He knows his ass is clearly on the hot seat right now. He’s going in a big underdog anyway to Kansas City. Might as well try something a little unconventional and see if it works. The worst that can happen is you lose, which was the likely scenario anyway.