Before he and I talked, Kurt Warner took a look at the film from the Texans' 28-23 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Knowing that Case Keenum had been benched during the game for Matt Schaub, Warner watched expecting to see significant struggles from the first-year quarterback.
So, what he saw confused him.
"In watching the game, I didn’t have the impression that he was struggling really bad," Warner said. "Maybe there were some plays versus pressure or things he didn’t recognize or see. ... When you watch the game as a whole, it wasn’t one of those games where you go, 'Oh my gosh, this guy’s struggling; we gotta get him out before he spins the opposite way.'"
When I reached out to Warner, a former undrafted quarterback who turned into a Super Bowl MVP, I wanted to talk pick his brain about being an undrafted quarterback forced to prove himself because the Texans had just decided to go to Keenum, also an undrafted quarterback. Warner, now an analyst for NFL Network, had to go through the process of proving himself a few times. First entering the NFL, then trying to stay in it.
Warner roots for underdogs, such as Keenum, who went undrafted and remained on the Texans' practice squad for all of last season. Their success, Warner believes, opens opportunities for other players who take non-traditional routes.
"Sometimes guys peak early," Warner said. "They get drafted higher and they make it to the NFL and they don’t have a lot of growth."
He noted the opposite can happen, too, with late bloomers who have higher ceilings.
But in the time he and I took to connect, another issue appeared.
What's the right way to develop Case Keenum?
I disagreed with Texans' coach Gary Kubiak's decision to pull Keenum for Schaub, but Warner knows the psyche of a quarterback much better than I do.
Warner said the answer lies in understanding the player.
Sometimes it is best for a quarterback to be pulled when things are going exceedingly poorly, so long as the quarterback understands and is told the move is only temporary. He has to know he hasn't lost his starting spot.
But what Warner didn't understand about this particular situation was two-fold. First, that Keenum's game didn't look to him like that kind of disaster. And second, that Keenum doesn't seem to him like a quarterback who dwells on his mistakes.
"He’s gotta work through some of these situations," Warner said. "He’s gotta learn through these things, he’s gotta see these blitzes ... and that’s how he’s going to get better. You let them learn through some of the struggles as long as you don’t think the struggles are going to beat them down and their confidence long term. I haven’t gotten that impression from any time when Case has struggled."
Indeed, his ability to move on from mistakes without letting them impact his next play has impressed Keenum's teammates.
His biggest problem right now is against opponents' blitzes. He knows it, his coach knows it and Warner saw it in watching Sunday's game. A lot of that can't be learned from the sideline.