OAKLAND -- It might end up being that Matt Schaub's best contribution to the Raiders is staying on the field. Because if this season ends up being another disaster, the best thing for the future is to not expose rookie Derek Carr.
The 33-year-old Schaub was brought in to lead the Raiders to respectability. He was supposed to bring some credibility to the position after Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin turned it into a circus act.
After Oakland's second exhibition game, a 27-26 win Friday night over the Detroit Lions, it became clearer how big of a task that might be for Schaub.
Not only does he have to overcome his own limitations as a quarterback, but Schaub also might have to manage with a lackluster offensive line, a receiving core prone to drops and a running game that scares no one.
If this is what Schaub inherited when he was traded to the Raiders and signed a reworked two-year, $13.5 million contract, his greatest feat would be to not implode. Because they can't throw quarterback-of-the-future Carr out there in a bad situation. Evidence of such came when Carr left the game with a concussion with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter.
The plan is for Carr to sit and watch. He has some developing to do. And the worst thing for that development would be to throw him out there behind a bad offensive line, without the threat of a running game, so he can throw to receivers who might or might not catch it.
So the first order of business for Schaub is surviving.
Friday, he showed some of that ability. The offensive line was like an unlocked gate for most of his 25 snaps. Yet, Schaub stood strong in the pocket and completed 8 of 13 passes for 87 yards.
He got knocked around a bit but didn't appear to get rattled. When it was clear he had little time, he was decent with his dink-and-dunk game to get some momentum going.
Eventually, the Raiders' starting unit scored its first touchdown of the preseason, and it was largely because Schaub hung in there.
"I thought he held up fine," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of Schaub.
That wasn't the case last season with Houston, when he crumbled in similar circumstances. He was intercepted 14 times in eight games before eventually getting hurt and losing his job.
Raiders fans got a glimpse of that in the second quarter. Schaub's pass to the left sideline was telegraphed and lazily thrown. Detroit corner Rashean Mathis jumped the route and was a half step from intercepting it and running it back for an easy touchdown.
Schaub is a system quarterback who needs the other elements working well to be at his best. If the surrounding parts aren't working, Schaub would earn his money simply by avoiding a collapse.
He needs to be the veteran who manages adversity well.
He needs to be aggressive about coaching up the young players in the huddle, keeping his team's head in the game after mistakes and having a positive vibe in rough times.
He needs to be on top of his game when it comes to reading defenses and making good decisions, squeezing every advantage possible from his wealth of experience.
"Not everything's going to go exactly how you draw it up," Schaub said. "Going to be ups and downs, going to be adversity that you have to face. It's how you respond to that. Gotta keep demanding that out of everyone."
Ideally, the Raiders' struggles are just a product of it being the early stages. Perhaps the offensive line will jell, the running game will grow to be effective and the receiving corps will develop some chemistry.
But if it doesn't, the Raiders will desperately need Schaub to turn lemons into meringue pie. The alternative could have ramifications beyond this season, and the Raiders just can't afford that.
Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson.