The Houston Texans are rooting hard for Matt Schaub in the Super Bowl.
As Julio Jones jetted down the field, leaving the Green Bay Packers behind, the cameras caught a long shot of Matt Schaub on the Atlanta Falcons’ sideline. Schaub probably wishes it didn’t. For the image guaranteed him a week of kidding on the group text he’s on with many of his former Houston Texans’ teammates.
“We were actually giving him some grief,” former Texans tight end Owen Daniels laughs. “Because there’s a shot of Julio racing down the sideline and in the background Matt was holding the ball high and tight. We gave him some grief for holding the ball high and tight on the sidelines.”
Hey, Matthew Rutledge Schaub waited a long time for a moment like this. Even if he has no chance of playing unless disaster strikes, he’s going to keep a football close just in case. Schaub had his helmet on too when the cameras caught him during that Julio Jones NFC Championship Game moment. He’s going to be ready.
Even if he is just a backup quarterback now, Schaub is headed back to Houston for the Super Bowl. There’s a certain delicious justice or wrong in that — which you think it is probably depends on your view of Schaub’s tenure as the Texans quarterback. For Schaub’s former Texans teammates, there is no debate or internal mind wrestling.
They’re pulling for Schuab — in a major way.
“That’s one of my good friends,” Daniels tells PaperCity. “With all the time he spent here, all the great play he had here, all the wins we had here, it will be awesome for him to be back in that building. Hopefully, he can get some hardware and maybe get a better taste in his mouth than he had his last few times in that building.”
We talked to Daniels on the sixth floor sports deck of legendary developer Mary Finger’s new 500 Crawford mid-rise, the one that looks out right over Minute Maid Park. Minute Maid will be the setting for Super Bowl LI’s prime-time media day and opening night celebration on Monday night, the first time Schaub will talk to the Houston press about his return.
Schaub is unquestionably the best quarterback in Texans history. He threw for 23,221 yards, completed 64.6 percent of his passes, racked up 124 touchdowns against 78 interceptions — and put Houston in the Super Bowl conversation for several seasons. But he also left in a wave of Pick-6 horrors that is unlikely to be duplicated for several generations.
Schaub and Houston fans have a complicated relationship — one that’s clearly now tilted toward the mocking stage. Which seems wrong at this point. Schaub deserves a nice ovation from Texans fans — and plenty of slaps on the back Super Bowl week. His run of excellence in the middle of his Houston run outweighs any bad ending.
“I’d love to see him win,” former Texan DeMeco Ryans says. “He deserves it.”
If Schaub does not shatter his foot on a senseless quarterback sneak late in a Texans’ blowout win during the 2011 season — the year of J.J. Watt’s emergence and Jacoby Jones’ playoff mind cramp blunder — he and Houston already could have won a Super Bowl.
Instead, Matt Schaub will try to win one with another team in the stadium he knows better than any other.
His former Texans teammates will be cheering him on all the way.
“He’s one of us,” Daniels says of Schaub. “We were all hitting him up (after the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl).”
Daniels knows what it’s like to need to leave Houston to win the big one. He played a crucial role in helping the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl last season under former Texans coach Gary Kubiak. And he has the giant-sized, diamond-encrusted ring to prove it.
“Hopefully, he can get some hardware and maybe get a better taste in his mouth than he had his last few times in that building.”
“It’s one of those things,” Daniels says. “When you’re in the game, you want to win the game. My only experience is being in the Super Bowl one time and winning it. I could see where it would be different if it went the other way.
“There’s nothing above the Super Bowl. There’s nothing above winning the Super Bowl and holding the Lombardi Trophy. Most of us have been playing this game for a long time — high school at least, and probably earlier — and we’ve all always pictured what winning the Super Bowl would be like. That’s it.”
Daniels wants Schaub to experience that moment in NRG Stadium. The tight end’s serving as a Houston Super Bowl ambassador this week, touting all of the events fans can get into without raiding their kids’ college funds (the Opening Night at Minute Maid Monday night, the NFL Experience fan fest taking over George R. Brown starting today, the Journey to Mars rocket ship ride at Discovery Green lifting off today).
But he’ll be keeping an eye on Schaub and the Falcons, firing up that group text throughout the week. Right along with many of his old Texans teammates. There is no doubt which team in this Super Bowl is the Texans’ choice.
“I like Atlanta by at least four points,” Daniels says.
One thing’s certain. Matt Schaub will have a football close — and his helmet on — while he patrols the sideline. Just in case. And his boys won’t let him forget it if the cameras find him.