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Oakland Raiders' Matt Schaub broken beyond repair?

Matt Schaub's first pass of last season was intercepted, as was his last pass of the season. In between, he established an NFL record by tossing a pick six in four consecutive games.

Blindly embracing the notion that 2013 was an outlier in an otherwise stellar career, the Oakland Raiders have trumpeted Schaub as a franchise-saving quarterback on par with the future Hall of Famers of his generation.

New teammate Maurice Jones-Drew suddenly has visions of Super Bowls dancing in his head. NFL Media's Kurt Warner believes Schaub is a "steal" as a "top-flight starter" in the NFL.

For all of that pomp and circumstance surrounding Schaub's Bay Area arrival, the Raiders' contractual commitment of only one guaranteed year belies the outward confidence.

What are the chances that the general manager who swung and missed on Matt Flynn and Tyler Wilson last season has knocked one out of the park with the Schaub acquisition?

Let's take a deeper look at the latest in the conga line of quarterbacks trotted out by the Raiders since Rich Gannon's MVP season over a decade ago.

What Schaub was in his prime


Slipping to the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Schaub was never viewed as a major arm talent. His Texans career was bolstered by Gary Kubiak's play-action offense with a zone-run foundation and solid protection.

Like all but the best NFL quarterbacks, Schaub had to be "manipulated" by a passing scheme and play-calling tailored to his strengths.

It's unfair to simplify Schaub as a glorified game manager during his glory days. Although he rarely tested defenses outside the hash marks, Schaub stuck throws into tight spaces over the middle, mastered the play-action fake, made smart decisions, showed consistent accuracy and even displayed a modicum of mobility.

Buoyed by bootlegs and a strong rushing attack, Schaub was particularly excellent on first downs. Prior to the 2013 season, Schaub earned a pair of Pro Bowl nods -- including a Pro Bowl MVP -- and was annually among the league leaders in yards per attempt, completion percentage and passer rating.

If there was a knock on Schaub, it was that he often struggled in the red zone and had never proven to be a crunch-time performer.

What Schaub is at this stage of his career


Although there were late 2012 whispers that a hidden injury might be the root cause of Schaub's precipitous decline, the game film reveals no smoking gun.

There might just be a canary in the coal mine, though, dating back to Thanksgiving of the 2012 season.

His struggles began shortly after uncorking a whopping 103 passes in back-to-back overtime victories over a five-day span in November. Schaub soon began playing without confidence in his arm or in his pass protection.

Check out the two underthrown play-action bombs in the video to the right. After Vontae Davis intercepted a dying quail intended for James Casey in Week 17, that weapon left Schaub's arsenal rarely to be seen again.

No longer standing in against the pass rush, Schaub started bailing in the pocket while falling into the habit of checking down horizontally as opposed to testing defenses vertically.

Entering his first career playoff game against the Bengals in early January, Schaub acknowledged to sideline reporter Alex Flanagan that he had been pressing, thinking too much and afraid to make a mistake. "His goal today is just to cut it loose," Flanagan summarized.

That theoretically renewed, aggressive Schaub never materialized.

Reminiscent of an obviously injured Carson Palmer in his last years with the Bengals, the postseason version of Schaub proved incapable of consistently moving his offense outside of garbage time against slackening defenses.

Amid Super Bowl expectations, Schaub led the Texans to a come-from-behind victory at San Diego in the 2013 season opener that overshadowed his inability to throw convincingly beyond 20 yards.

The chickens finally came home to roost over the next month. Schaub was facing defenses armed with film study that showed evidence of a quarterback unwilling to throw beyond sticks.

With cornerbacks sitting on his checkdowns and out routes, Schaub set the ignominious NFL record for pick sixes in consecutive games.

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski was moved to label Schaub a "broken quarterback" who was "seeing ghosts" in the pocket.

Turning on the lone successful QB in franchise history, fans began harassing Schaub at his home. Shortly thereafter, the Texans "faithful" even cheered an ugly ankle injury that left Schaub writhing in pain.

The consequent benching in favor of third-stringer Case Keenum exposed the ultimate juxtaposition of a brash, young gunslinger versus a feckless, diminished washout.

In Kubiak's roll-out scheme, Schaub's effectiveness on trademark play-action passes fell off a cliff.

For comparison purposes, Keenum averaged 9.9 yards per attempt and a 100.7 passer rating on play-action passes versus 5.8 and 69.4 for Schaub, per Pro Football Focus.

The final nail in Schaub's Houston coffin was driven home when he engaged in a mid-November screaming match with favorite receiver Andre Johnson.

Four months later, Schaub was shipped to Oakland in exchange for a future special teamer.

What the Raiders can expect from Schaub


For the first time in his career as an NFL starter, Schaub will be operating outside the cozy confines of Kubiak's offense that emphasized the quarterback's strengths and limited his weaknesses.

Adding to the difficulty factor: a reconstructed offensive line that has never played together, a running-back tandem that has combined to average an ineffectual 3.5 yards per carry over the past two seasons and a receiving corps that lacks a go-to target of Andre Johnson's caliber.

More than ever before, the deck is stacked against Schaub.

It's perhaps no coincidence that Warner doesn't view 2013 as the end of the line for the new Raiders leader.

Among established, franchise-caliber quarterbacks of the past two decades, Warner is the exception to the rule that there is no coming back from an in-season benching for performance reasons.

Established starting quarterback benchings
Player
When benched
Aftermath
Bernie Kosar, Cleveland Browns
1993, age 30
Started three games the rest of his career
Jim Everett, Los Angeles Rams
1993, age 30
Never won more than seven games in a season the rest of this career
Mark Brunell, Jacksonville Jaguars
2003, age 33
Only started 10-plus games in a season one more time
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams
2003, age 32
Released, signed with Giants
Kurt Warner, New York Giants
2004, age 33
Left for Arizona, took Cardinals to franchise's first Super Bowl
Aaron Brooks, New Orleans Saints
2005, age 29
Went 0-8 as Raiders starter, then ended his career
Jake Plummer, Denver Broncos
2006, age 32.
Never played again
Drew Bledsoe, Dallas Cowboys
2006, age 34
Never played again
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
2008, age 32
Traded to Redskins, benched again. Traded to Vikings, benched a third time
Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams
2009, age 32
Never played again
Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers
2009, age 34
Started four games the rest of his career
2012, age 30
Started six games with Vikings


Schaub turns 33 years old before the start of the 2014 season. By that age, the majority of similarly talented quarterbacks had tasted their last NFL success.

When Bill Belichick unceremoniously dumped Bernie Kosar in 1993, the coach cited production and a "diminishing of his physical skills."

Owner Art Modell's explanation of the loss of a Cleveland legend provided even more illumination.

"He has taken so much punishment," Modell explained, "more than any quarterback I've ever known in this league."

Quarterbacks can only absorb so many hits, undergo so many surgeries, come out on the losing end of so many thrillers before their bodies break down. They become gun-shy, afraid to pull the trigger.

Matt Schaub's injury history
Injury Year
Torn ligaments in ankle 2013
X-rays on left shoulder; ear injury 2012
Lisfranc surgery; lingering throwing shoulder injury; MRI on hip 2011
Inflamed bursa sac in knee; rib injury 2010
Dislocated left shoulder; ankle injury 2009
Torn MCL 2008
Dislocated left shoulder; concussion; ankle; hip and lower back injuries 2007

One of the most battered field generals of the past decade, Schaub has accumulated serious foot, ankle, knee, shoulder, rib and head injuries. He even lost a piece of his ear on a devastating hit in 2012.

Successful pro quarterbacks don't turn stale over time. The fall is sudden and steep.

Like a punchdrunk boxer who still sees openings but can no longer exploit the sucker for a left hook, shellshocked signal-callers ultimately suffer from that split-second when they stop pulling the trigger on an open window.

When the end came for Elvis Presley, Forrest Gump explained, "Well, he sung too many songs, had himself a heart attack or something."

When the final bell sounds for the quarterback, he gets benched, traded and degraded.

In the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the guys continue the offseason Roster Reset series by breaking down the NFC West and AFC South.

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