Football / Sports

After nightmare season, Schaub starts over for Oakland

ALAMEDA, Calif.--When Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub is out bonding with his new teammates around the Bay Area, many fans aren't even aware the offseason's most important acquisition is in their midst.

"Being out with Marcel Reece and Darren McFadden, those guys are so visible," Schaub said in a recent exclusive interview at the club facility. "They notice me sometimes, but I'm flying under the radar. I've been in here from sun-up to sun down. It's all work right now."

The work continues when the Raiders convene for an organized team activity Tuesday. Schaub's days of staying under the radar, however, will quickly give way to the spotlight.

Coming off a horrific year with the Houston Texans, Schaub was targeted by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen as the man to guide their organization to its first winning season in 11 years.

Dealt to the Raiders for a sixth-round draft pick, Schaub had become the face of failure for a Houston team that had been a smart money pick to win the AFC but instead went 2-14.

One of only six quarterbacks in NFL history to tally a passer rating of 90 or above five consecutive seasons, Schaub bottomed out in 2013. He threw 10 touchdown passes, had 14 interceptions, a passer rating of 73.0 and set a dubious record by having an interception returned for a touchdown in four consecutive games.

The Raiders are convinced they have brought in the good Schaub, not the one who was so reviled by the local fan base he needed security for his family at home.

Schaub, 32, has embraced his reboot with the Raiders. If there are any scars from his experience last season, he hides them well.

"It comes with the territory," Schaub said. "It comes with the position. It comes with playing in the NFL. If you let it get to you, you'll be out the door faster than you came in."

Rather than recount what went wrong in 2013, Schaub has elected to move forward. He said he is energized by an offensive system that will give more control than he ever had in Houston in terms of changing plays at the line of scrimmage. He said he has embraced the challenge of becoming the unquestioned quarterback leader the Raiders have lacked since Rich Gannon's career ended in 2005.

"I'II want to come in and take control of the huddle," Schaub said. "That's the job of the quarterback. It's up to me to set a standard for how our offense is going to operate, how we're going to work and how we're going to prepare. You've got to demand that out of the guys in the huddle with you."

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Schaub has already taken charge of the quarterback room, which also includes six-game starter Matt McGloin, second-round draft pick Derek Carr and veteran Trent Edwards.

The Houston system under Gary Kubiak restricted Schaub in terms of changing plays at the line of scrimmage. With the Raiders, Schaub will be free to get the Raiders out of a bad play based on the look he gets from a defense.

"You can get stale," Olson said. "I think we've tried our best to stimulate him, to motivate him to get back to the level of play he had shown in the past. He's taken the full reins of that."

Andre Ware, the former Heisman Trophy winner who serves as the Texans' radio color analyst, said in a recent radio interview that being unable to audible in Kubiak's system is "like playing with one arm tied behind your back."

Said Schaub: "There are things I'm being asked to do here that I didn't have control of in Houston. I would have loved to, but we just weren't in control of it. To now be in that position, it's such a great place to be because you can get everybody on the same page."

Ware said Schaub appeared to lose his confidence last season in a Week 2 loss to Seattle and it "just kind of snowballed" to the point that "he just didn't have that zip in the middle portion of the season that he had in training camp."

However, Ware fully expects Schaub to return to form.

"The best thing that could have happened for Matt is a change of scenery and a chance to hit the restart button," Ware said. "I think he'll flourish in Oakland."

In the meantime, Schaub has spent the first five weeks of the offseason program learning everything he can about his teammates so he can maximize his ability to lead.

"As a quarterback you have to be somewhat of a psychologist," Schaub said. "Can I joke around in the huddle to keep this guy loose? Does this guy need a little fire lit under him?"

On a team with several veteran free agents that were essentially sent packing by their former employers, Schaub said, "I'm definitely in that group . . . you've got to have that edge or you'll take something for granted and before you know it it will be gone.

"You've got to prove to the coaches, the owners, the GM, that you're the guy for the job."

(c)2014 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.)

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