Commentary

Texans' Schaub still has a lot to prove

Originally Published: December 8, 2008
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders

Our No. 1 quarterback of the week earned his stripes on Sunday. Matt Schaub took what some will signify to be a huge step forward in his young, injury-riddled career by winning at Lambeau Field against the Packers, throwing for 414 yards despite frigid conditions.

A mythology has developed around dethroning the Packers at Lambeau over the past decade, owing to the two things that quarterbacks entering Wisconsin had to overcome. Before this year, they'd be across the sideline from Brett Favre, who somehow became the quarterback's "opponent" and the person the quarterback had to outplay despite the fact, of course, the two players were never on the field together for a single snap. The other factor was the aforementioned weather. You don't ever hear someone talk about how difficult it is to head into, say, Qualcomm Stadium and beat the Chargers.

Does it mean anything to a quarterback to beat the Packers on their own field, though? Does it promote Schaub into a pantheon of successful quarterbacks? Not really. Sure, guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Steve McNair have left Green Bay with their hand raised. Michael Vick even took Favre and the Packers out in the 2002 playoffs.

On the other hand, though, like any other grouping of quarterbacks, there's a smattering of mediocrity to go along with those All-Pros. Chris Miller beat the Packers in Lambeau. So did Jim Miller. The legendary Cade McNown left with a W. Rex Grossman has three. Randall Cunnningham threw for 442 yards and four scores against the Pack in 1998. In other words, leading a team to victory over the Packers in Lambeau is nice, but it doesn't prove anything about your mettle or likelihood of success after the win.

With that being said, the effect that Lambeau has on a quarterback's performance is pretty real. From 1995 through 2007, the quarterback rating of starting passers against Green Bay on their home fields was 80.3; in Green Bay, that fell to 70.2. The 10.1-point difference is tied for the third-largest in the league. Strangely, the team with the biggest difference is Miami, which obviously offers little in the way of weather issues.

Even throwing for 400 or more yards in an NFL game isn't a sign that you're a great quarterback. The list of 400-yard passers since 1995 includes relative mediocrities like Glenn Foley, Chris Weinke, Tim Rattay and Tony Banks. Take Schaub's performance at face value: It was a very good game against a pass defense that is normally very good but struggled mightily on Sunday. Assuming it is a guarantee that he's achieved a new level of performance would be silly.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 14, according to the Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) statistics.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
1.
Matt Schaub HOU
29/41
414
2
1
206
217
-11
482
One factor that dramatically helped Schaub was the move of Charles Woodson to safety, where he replaced an injured Atari Bigby. That took the Packers' best cover corner out of the equation, and while Tramon Williams did register the Packers' lone interception on the day, Schaub picked on him in man coverage. On another Packers note, they've failed to score a defensive touchdown on a single one of the six turnovers they've created on defense in their three-game losing streak, despite scoring seven touchdowns through 10 games.
2.
Peyton Manning IND
26/32
277
3
0
180
180
0
424
Manning's first two passes and his last throw were incomplete. In between, he had streaks of five, eight and 13 straight completions. That's just a supernatural force right there, regardless of how bad the Bengals' pass defense is. It didn't hurt matters that Manning had total peace in the pocket, as the Bengals didn't knock Manning down even once, let alone sack him.
3.
Philip Rivers SD
10/22
214
3
0
168
160
8
370
Although it's not factored into the calculus behind DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), Rivers gets our respect for being the first quarterback to successfully complete a big pass against Nnamdi Asomugha this season. He may end up the only quarterback to get such respect this year.
4.
Drew Brees NO
18/30
230
2
0
136
141
-5
350
In a rare day for the drop-prone combination, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey were 7-of-8 for 136 yards and seven first downs on Sunday. If Brees could get that kind of production out of them every week, you'd need to spot the defense two extra cornerbacks to take down the Saints' offense.
5.
Donovan McNabb PHI
19/28
191
1
0
125
117
8
352
The biggest numbers for McNabb in the Eagles' impressive victory are the smallest: Zero, for the number of interceptions he threw, and one, for the number of sacks he took. After being sacked a combined 15 times in two games against the Giants in 2007, McNabb took only the one sack in his two encounters with Big Blue this year.
6.
Matt Ryan ATL
24/33
315
1
1
110
102
8
337
Ryan isn't known for his mobility, but his 12-yard scamper for a score in the fourth quarter was perfectly executed. Now that he's shown that off and it's on film, teams will be more concerned with his ability to run the ball inside the red zone, which will make them more likely to spy on him with a linebacker close to the end zone and open up space for receivers.
7.
Seneca Wallace SEA
20/28
212
3
0
110
87
22
335
Wallace was third on this list until he fumbled on the Seahawks' final drive, handing the game over to the Patriots. To say that New England struggled with Wallace's athleticism and ability to run the ball would be an understatement -- any team with a quarterback of any mobility will be watching the game film on how Wallace stretched the ragged Patriots' linebackers thin.
8.
Shaun Hill SF
28/39
285
2
1
95
90
4
350
Going 7-of-13 on third down is a good way to try to earn a starting job for keeps. Of course, whether San Francisco wants Hill to win the job is another story altogether. It'd be easier for them to commit to someone like Matt Cassel or even a college prospect like Matt Stafford if Hill fails as the starter.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
9.
Tarvaris Jackson MIN
8/10
105
1
0
71
71
0
152
Perhaps the best part about Jackson's performance against the Lions (culminating with five consecutive passes resulting in either a first down or a touchdown) is the fact that his success makes him less likely to be cut and end up playing for the Lions next year.
10.
Eli Manning NYG
13/27
123
1
0
66
66
0
241
Yes, Manning was not helped by his receivers' drops. On the other hand, Manning also got lucky for the second week in a row when an awful pass to seemingly no one was actually so poor that two different defenders broke on it and, in the confusion, dropped a sure interception. In addition, Manning's consistently led the league or been among the league leaders in dropped passes each year, regardless of whom he was throwing to. That would indicate there's an issue with Manning's ball placement and that he deserves some of the blame.
11.
Chad Pennington MIA
23/29
181
1
0
65
70
-4
222
In some sort of kraut-rock homage, Pennington had four consecutive completions to Davone Bess of 5 yards or less. Then again, maybe he was angling for a Subway sponsorship.
12.
Jay Cutler DEN
32/40
286
2
1
62
60
2
320
A sign that something is weird in the Denver offense: The three longest throws Cutler attempted on Sunday went to either Brandon Stokley or Tony Scheffler.
13.
Kurt Warner ARI
24/33
279
1
1
42
42
0
226
14.
Jason Campbell WAS
21/37
218
1
2
35
32
3
233
Campbell was a little unlucky to be picked off the first time, but taking two sacks of 13 yards each is absolutely inexcusable. Maybe he thought Jim Zorn couldn't reach him with those pads or whatever else Zorn throws at him in practice if he took a 27-step drop.
15.
Aaron Rodgers GB
19/30
295
2
1
34
34
0
212
16.
Matt Cassel NE
26/44
268
1
0
31
32
-1
329
You can frame Cassel's performance two different ways. You can say he did what he had to when he had to, converting four of five third downs in the fourth quarter to set up the Patriots for two scores. You can also say he put himself in bad situations. On first and second down in the fourth quarter, he was 2-of-6 and was sacked twice. The end result? Just about average.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
17.
Daunte Culpepper DET
14/23
220
1
0
31
32
-1
200
Culpepper was sacked twice and fumbled both times -- the second one knocked him out of the game and resulted in the arrival of Drew Henson, who was sacked on his only dropback. We also must call out wide receiver John Standeford, who caught one of the five passes thrown at him, and even that 5-yard catch was a yard short of the first-down marker. Standeford is probably wishing he was back on the Colts' practice squad right about now.
18.
Marc Bulger STL
22/37
228
1
1
17
17
0
228
19.
Ken Dorsey CLE
22/43
149
0
1
16
16
0
260
Ladies and gentlemen, behold the power of adjusting for the strength of your opponent's defense. Honestly, we fully expected Dorsey to quit on his stool at some point in the third quarter, so the fact that Romeo Crennel never had to literally throw in the towel sort of impressed us.
20.
Tyler Thigpen KC
17/32
187
1
0
8
3
5
196
21.
Kyle Orton CHI
20/34
219
2
1
-7
-7
0
184
Orton before his injury: 510 DYAR. Orton after his injury: -139 DYAR.
22.
Kerry Collins TEN
15/23
155
2
2
-18
-18
0
102
23.
Joe Flacco BAL
11/22
126
1
1
-23
-18
-5
85
The rocket he threw to Derrick Mason on his last pass was a great throw, but John Harbaugh & Co. were so aghast at the idea of Flacco throwing the ball in the fourth quarter that they went with an unbalanced line for virtually the entire period.
24.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
17/33
204
1
0
-31
-17
-14
145
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
EYds
25.
Brett Favre NYJ
20/31
137
0
1
-38
-45
6
133
Favre converted only two of the 10 third and fourth downs he faced.
26.
Tony Romo DAL
19/36
210
1
3
-58
-59
2
124
Roy Williams, the dynamic wide receiver the Cowboys absolutely needed to have to take their offense to the next level this season was 2-of-6 for 16 yards. His presence has forced underneath receiver Patrick Crayton out of the offense; Crayton didn't even get a single target on Sunday, despite the fact that he was open on Romo's final interception. Williams has had a negligible impact on the offense, and cost the Cowboys dearly in the process. You've heard of addition by subtraction; although Williams is a fine player in the right role, his presence on the Cowboys, for this year, appears to be a case of subtraction by addition.
27.
David Garrard JAC
19/38
178
1
1
-67
-71
4
149
28.
JaMarcus Russell OAK
9/13
68
0
2
-95
-95
0
-56
Hey, at least he finished ahead of Andrew Walter.
29.
Gus Frerotte MIN
7/10
70
0
2
-100
-100
0
-78
Tarvaris Jackson may not be the answer. After two picks and a sack in 11 dropbacks, though, it's pretty safe to say that whatever the question is, Frerotte isn't the answer, either.
30.
J.P. Losman BUF
13/26
123
0
1
-106
-134
28
42
After four more sacks on Sunday, Losman's been sacked on nearly 16 percent of his dropbacks this year, an astounding figure. For comparison, David Carr was sacked on 14.6 percent of his dropbacks when he "set" the single-season record for most sacks in a season.
31.
Ryan Fitzpatrick CIN
18/26
170
0
2
-113
-97
-16
7
32.
Andrew Walter OAK
8/17
61
0
1
-113
-105
-8
-57
Do you think there was a single fantasy team on the planet that started Walter at quarterback in the playoffs this week? I mean, even Russell was probably started in a few dozen leagues or so just because he was starting. Walter wasn't even supposed to play, and even if he was supposed to play, well, he's a Raiders quarterback who's not good enough to beat out Russell for the starting job. We're convinced that there's not a single fantasy league (one that rewards players for playing well, not leagues where you get points for doing poorly like the Football Outsiders Loser League) that saw Walter in the lineup for a team as a starter this week. Not one. If you actually play in a league where Walter started, alert us by e-mailing mailbag-at-footballoutsiders.com.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
Chris Johnson TEN
136
1
30
0
62
38
24
190
It's incredible that Johnson is basically a one-man offense for the Tennessee Titans -- he makes everything else in the scheme work and breaks big plays seemingly on a weekly basis -- but he won't even be in the consideration for rookie of the year because of the work Ryan's done in Atlanta. Among his exploits this week was running for 17 yards on a third-and-16.
2.
Pierre Thomas NO
102
1
7
1
57
45
12
172
The Saints have a former second overall pick to whom they gave a $52 million contract. They also have a former first-round pick to whom they gave a $50 million contract. To whom did the Saints give the ball to on third-and-3 with a four-point lead and the game hanging in the balance? The undrafted free agent they're paying $370,000 this year.
3.
Brian Westbrook PHI
131
1
72
1
50
15
35
239
Despite the fact that he carried the ball 33 times, Westbrook really wasn't that impressive on the ground (he had a DVOA of only 3.1 percent). It was his work in the passing game that really impressed, highlighted by his abuse of Antonio Pierce on an angle route for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
4.
Peyton Hillis DEN
58
1
11
0
40
32
8
100
Did you taunt your fellow fantasy owners with the fact that you picked up Hillis the moment Ryan Torain went down? That your seemingly meaningless late-season waiver priority left you with an emerging stud at running back? Well, you jinxed it for the rest of us. Hillis strained a hamstring and is out for the season, leaving his owners with 3½ games of above-average performance.
5.
Tashard Choice DAL
88
0
78
0
38
16
23
178
A good performance against a great defense; it would have been even better had he not gained 2 yards or less on 11 of his 15 first-down carries. With Crayton, Miles Austin, Martellus Bennett, Felix Jones and Choice, the Cowboys might have a better set of second-string skill-position players than some teams' first-string.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
EYds
1.
Adrian Peterson MIN
103
0
15
0
-49
-54
5
3
Remember that stat we just quoted for Choice's performance on first downs? Peterson ran the ball 12 times on first down. He had carries for 25, 11, 9 and 5 yards. That's the good side. The other seven carries? One for 2 yards, four for 1 yard, two for -1 yards. He also failed to convert the only third-down attempt he had. Oh, and he fumbled three times, although the Vikings managed to keep possession on all three. And this was all against the Lions. But hey, look, 103 yards!
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
1.
Kevin Walter HOU
6
9
146
24.3
1
59
143
Walter to the left: 3-of-3, 114 yards. Walter to the right: 1-of-3, 4 yards.
2.
Roddy White ATL
10
13
164
16.4
0
49
146
Ryan started off with an interception and two incompletions to White, but then they got going. The last 10 throws in White's direction were all complete, with nine of those 10 passes being "successful" plays.
3.
Vincent Jackson SD
5
9
148
29.6
1
47
130
Seriously, drawing a pass interference penalty on Asomugha is hard enough, but actually making a catch of 40-plus yards on him in the process? That's the most impressive feat of the week. Seriously.
4.
Brandon Marshall DEN
11
12
91
8.3
2
46
142
Kansas City's pass defense isn't great, and Marshall didn't get downfield, but he pretty much had his way with the secondary and caught virtually everything that was thrown at him.
5.
Chad Johnson CIN
5
5
79
15.8
0
45
99
Five catches on five passes for five first downs. Heck, T.J. Houshmandzadeh was 8-of-9 for 75 yards across from him. It's not their fault the Bengals are 1-11-1.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
EYds
5.
DeSean Jackson PHI
0
3
0
0.0
0
-38
-50
This doesn't include his middling work on punt returns, but wow, was Jackson awful. Three incomplete passes were bad enough, but throw in two carries for -9 yards (including a loss of 7 on third-and-6 from the Giants' 26) and Jackson was just wretched.

Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.