Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak pulled a surprise on Thursday when he announced that quarterback Case Keenum will start on Sunday against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Starting quarterback Matt Schaub is out because of ankle and foot injuries, and Kubiak chose Keenum to make his NFL debut over three-year backup T.J. Yates.
Keenum, who was the NCAA career leader in passing yards at the University of Houston, went undrafted in 2012 and spent last season on the Texans’ practice squad. Yates, a fifth-round pick by Houston in 2011, replaced an injured Schaub last week against St. Louis and completed 12 of 17 passes for 98 yards, but threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a 98-yard touchdown.
Yates also has starting experience from 2011. After Schaub was injured late in the season, Yates started two playoff games, including a 31-10 win over Cincinnati.
But the Texans, 2-4, have lost four straight games and Kubiak said he tapped Keenum because, “I feel like we need a spark.”
Schaub and Yates have combined for 11 interceptions, and the Texans have committed 15 turnovers and are minus-12 in turnover differential — all second-most in the NFL to the New York Giants. Keenum will be facing a Chiefs team that has created an NFL-most 18 takeaways, is plus-12 in turnover margin and leads the NFL with 30 sacks.
Kubiak had said Wednesday he planned to wait until the end of the week to make his decision but decided it would be in the team’s best interest to reveal his decision on Thursday.
“I’m worried about my team and doing what’s best for us,” Kubiak told reporters. “We have to run our offense. I want everybody moving forward and understanding where we’re going. I have confidence in Case. Matt and T.J. will help him. We’re not sending him out there alone, and he’s done well since camp. He’s excited.
“T.J. is disappointed, as he should be, but he promised me he’d be ready to go if we need him.”