Gregorian Chants

Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City

Keenum has tough task at Arrowhead making first NFL appearance

10/18/2013 3:57 PM

10/18/2013 3:57 PM

By the time his career at the University of Houston ended two seasons ago, Case Keenum had unfathomable numbers: 2,229 attempts with 1,546 completions for 19,217 yards and 155 touchdowns.

That made him the NCAA career leader in passing yards and touchdowns passes.

But it also left him undrafted.

He was considered under-sized (6-1, 208 pounds) and only to have an OK arm. He also was seen as a dreaded "system quarterback," who prospered by throwing more and at shorter range than most others.

That helps explain why he was able only to make the Houston Texans practice squad last season and why his announced start for the Texans on Sunday against the Chiefs might seem like something bordering on desperation.

For all those numbers Keenum amassed in college, after all, his first pass on Sunday will be his first in the NFL.

Against one of the best defenses in the league, in what now is certifiably the loudest outdoor venue in the world.

"Wait until he walks in there and hears that noise," Houston coach Gary Kubiak told reporters in Houston on Friday. "I know what he’s fixing to walk into."

But seeking "a spark," Kubiak opted for Keenum over T.J. Yates, who replaced the injured Matt Schaub in last week’s loss to the St. Louis Rams and threw two interceptions.

One was returned for a touchdown, the fifth straight game the Texans offered up a pick-six.

This all seems to be another fine break for the Chiefs marauding defense. And that may well prove true.

But among the reasons Kubiak felt he could turn to Keenum now are Keenum’s intelligence, resilience, poise and energy.

"He’s going to be going 100 miles-per-hour," he said. "He’s going 100-miles-per-hour today."

If the sell seems hard publicly, Kubiak suggested it wasn’t initially universally embraced when he announced it to the team, either.

"I think any time you make decisions, tough decisions as coaches, there’s always going to be maybe guys that didn’t think that’s the way you were going to go That’s OK. They’re human. I tell them that all of the time," said Kubiak, who indicated there had been a warming by Friday. "They’ve responded. They’ve really been behind the kid. They understand his challenge as a player. The best thing they can do is play well around him."

And the best thing the coaches can do is contour the game plan to his skills and the circumstances.

While saying he wants Keenum to "cut it loose," Kubiak noted it will be crucial to run well and added:

"You obviously think about the things he’s comfortable with; I think the biggest thing as a coach is you don’t overload a kid when he’s in this situation for a first time. That’s been the biggest point of emphasis for us is to get him comfortable, with getting in and out of the huddle with the noise we’re fixing to face, the adversity you’re fixing to face from that standpoint. So he can go play and his reactions take over."

Reactions he hasn’t had a chance to make live in nearly two years.

"There will be nothing more challenging than this," Kubiak said, "but he’s not going in there by himself."

 

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