Ravens beat reporter Aaron Wilson on the signing of quarterback Matt Schaub to back up starter Joe Flacco. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
New Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub is just two years removed from leading the Houston Texans to a 12-4 record and an AFC South division title, and being named to the AFC Pro Bowl team after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 22 touchdown passes.
In the time since, Schaub has been benched twice, traded by the Texans to the Oakland Raiders, released by the Raiders and threw 16 interceptions compared to just 10 touchdown passes. Now, the soon-to-be 34-year-old finds himself preparing for a season in which he knows he will be a backup to Joe Flacco, who hasn't missed a game in his seven-year NFL career.
"Whether it's in the context of a game, a season, you're going to have an ebb and flow, you're going to have peaks, you're going to have some valleys. You're going to have some really good times and you're going to have some tough times. But how you handle those is what's going to carry you through," Schaub said Wednesday in a conference call with area reporters.
He spoke a day after he signed a one-year deal with the Ravens that includes a $1 million base salary and could be worth as much as $3 million with incentives.
"That mental toughness, if you want to call it that, is something I feel I've always had," Schaub said. "I've just fought through things. I've leaned on some really great times that I've had in my career. Did I have a tough year in 2013? I sure did. Things snowballed. I forced things a lot and things got away from me as a player and us as a team. But I feel I've learned from it, I grew as a person and as a player from those experiences. I'm just looking for the next opportunity. I have a ton of football left in me. I know I still can play at a high level, so I'm looking to contribute in any way possible to the Ravens organization."
After losing Tyrod Taylor, Flacco's backup for the previous four seasons who signed a free-agent deal last month with the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens wanted to add another experienced quarterback. What they got in Schaub is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who has started 90 games over 11 NFL seasons and thrown for over 4,000 yards in three different campaigns, but whose career has recently hit a wall.
In 2013, Schaub started eight games for a Texans team that went 2-14, and threw four more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (10). He was traded to the quarterback-needy Raiders for a sixth-round NFL draft pick last offseason, but did not start a game for them as Oakland went with rookie Derek Carr under center. Schaub, who was let go by the Raiders last month, played in 11 games last season, completing 5 of 10 passes for 57 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I had a lot going on personally with my family life and everything that we were working with, but the football side, I just worked my tail off the best that I could to help the football team," Schaub said. "I just focused on the things that I could offer to help the younger guys on the football team and within the organization. It's just something that you've got to force yourself to remain positive, to continue to work. I know what I can do as a player. I know what I'm capable of. It's just about finding that right opportunity and spot to display those things."
Schaub has been traded twice in his career, but he had never experienced free agency until this offseason. He acknowledged the process was stressful and said a handful of teams, including the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys, expressed interest.
However, he had the Ravens at the top of his list throughout the process. He appreciated that the Ravens are in the playoff hunt every year and that several of his former Texans teammates and coaches who went to Baltimore, such as Gary Kubiak and Owen Daniels, had good things to say about the organization.
Schaub got to know Flacco a little bit over the years during pregame, on-the-field conversations before Ravens-Texans matchups, and Schaub felt that the two have similar styles and demeanors. And after conversations with Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, Schaub liked that the Ravens were going to keep many of the same principles from Kubiak's offense, in which he flourished in Houston.
"He knows the basics of the offense that we will run. He's been in it for the bulk of his career," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said in a statement. "We believe he'll complement Joe very well and we know he'll be a good fit with Marc Trestman and Joe. When you can add a committed, smart, dedicated, experienced and proven player at quarterback like Matt, it's a good day for the Ravens."
Schaub, who said he is beyond the elbow and arm injuries he's had in recent seasons that led to questions about his arm strength, is the most experienced and accomplished backup quarterback the Ravens have had since Marc Bulger backed up Flacco during the 2010 season.
It's also new territory for Schaub. He's not entered training camp knowing that he was going to be the backup since 2006, his final year for the Falcons. However, after his struggles of the past two seasons, Schaub said he'll embrace an opportunity to "take a step back."
"Sometimes as a player, a coach, whoever you are in life, take a step back and just view things, and just take a deep breath and just move forward to that next opportunity and grab the bull by the horns so to speak," he said. "I'm excited about it. I'm excited about being a part of a rich, tradition-based organization that has shown year in and year out to be a winner.
"In this role as a backup, you still mentally and physically have to get yourself ready to play because at the drop of a hat, that can happen at any moment. I know Joe's been healthy every game of his career, but you never know and you've got to prepare each week as if you're going to be the guy in the huddle and taking those snaps."