Quarterback Matt Schaub has spent most of the past six weeks with his new teammates. The Raiders’ offseason program has made sure of that. Schaub carved out time between weightlifting sessions and team meetings to make small talk with most.
Some would stop there. Schaub went above and beyond, often with credit card outstretched, to bring this offense together.
He took the entire unit to Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse in Walnut Creek in late April. He took the quarterbacks and the offensive line to an Athletics game in style. Dude bought a luxury suite. He joined in fullback Marcel Reece’s excursion to go bowling as a team.
These off-field moments may seem inconsequential, but they’re vital in one major respect: If you like your co-worker, you’ll fight harder for him to succeed.
“We spend so much time in the building, but to get out and go do things socially, get to know guys on a personal level is key,” Schaub said. “At the end of the day, when we’re out there between the lines, we have to have each other’s back. The more you know guys, the more you have a rapport with them, it goes a lot further during the season than I think a lot of people outside of the building might realize. It’s important to do those things.”
Schaub has maximized his time in silver and black. He was acquired in trade from Houston to lead this team and provide stability at quarterback, something a young offense sorely lacked last year.
He’s done that on the field and in team meetings through the early stages of the offseason, providing a sense of calm and focus to a unit with several new contributors.
“You hear him all the time,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s coaching up some of the younger guys, trying to get everybody on the same page, and that’s what you look for really in all your veteran players. We’re here for one reason, one reason only, and that’s to win games, and for us to be able to do that everybody has to be on the same page. It’s nice when your quarterback is on the same page and understands what you have to get done.”
Allen brings a good, yet obvious point. Being a good guy isn’t enough. The Raiders brought Schaub in to lead and perform. There are questions whether he can recover from a career-worst 2013 campaign where he lost his starting job and, seemingly, his confidence. We all know about all the interceptions returned for touchdowns and the major gaffes. We saw the surprising struggles with consistency that defined his past play. Even if Schaub declines to analyze those moments in detail, the memories remain.
“It adds fuel to the fire,” he said “Last year is history but acts as motivation moving forward. I’ve learned a great deal about myself as a player from it. But again, it’s in the past and I can only control what I do, how I prepare as a player, what I do for this football team moving forward, putting them in position to win football games in 2014.”
Schaub has done most everything right to this point, but there’s far more to prove. The Raiders have had just four OTA sessions thus far, with a busy offseason and training camp leading toward the regular season’s showcase.
The Raiders believe Schaub will step up, lead as offense well as he always has, and return to old form.
“He’s been a top 10 quarterback in this league,” Allen said. “I think there’s a lot of teams out there that would love to have a top 10 quarterback in this league. I feel like we have one.”