With the final 2 teams remaining in the NFL playoff landscape, it’s rather interesting the majority of the NFL buzz is currently focused on those franchises which have already been eliminated. In fact, the most noise is coming from two franchises which were eliminated BACK IN DECEMBER. I present to you: A Tale of Two Quarterbacks. Down in Texas, superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson has tolerated years of incompetence with the Houston Texans, whether it was the Bill O’Brien regime, or the new regime featuring former Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caseri, the Texans new GM. Then, over here in Philadelphia, we have a disgruntled franchise (TBD) quarterback in Carson Wentz who is also unhappy with the organization, and has reportedly demanded a trade in the offseason. This is truly an interesting situation going on right now, because we are about to see how much weight a franchise quarterback carries within their respective organization.
Before I break down the individual cases, let’s just do a quick refresh on the two quarterbacks this past season.
In 16 Starts
Comp %: 70.2 (3rd in NFL)
Yards:4823 (1st in NFL)
Touchdowns: 33 (Tied 7th)
Interceptions: 7 (Tied 7th)
TD/INT Ratio: ~ 5/1
Rating: 112.4 (2nd in NFL)
QBR: 70.5 (12th in NFL)
In 12 Starts (Benched in Week 13)
Comp %: 57.4 (2nd worst in NFL of qualified QB’s)
Yards:2620 (25th in NFL)
Touchdowns: 16 (Tied 20th)
Interceptions: 15 (1st in NFL)
TD/INT Ratio: ~ 1/1
Rating: 72.8 (2nd worst in NFL of qualified QB’s)
QBR: 49.7 (28th in NFL)
I think we can all predict where I am going with this blog after a glimpse at those numbers, but let’s start with Watson, who is clearly the bigger story here. Deshaun Watson was the 12th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft after a stellar career at Clemson, which he carried the team to two CFP championship appearances, narrowly losing in 2015 and winning 2016. After watching the 2016 NCAAF season, I thought for sure Watson deserved consideration for the #1 overall pick, but I am not a pro scout and don’t see some of the things that paid “experts” see, which led to him dropping to #12. If you know anything about the Texans and the Bill O’Brien era, I don’t have to tell you what a shitshow it was under his rule. The team was a perennial wild card contender for most of his time, but they were viewed as just that, remaining in purgatory for so many years. When Watson was drafted to the Texans, they still had Tom Savage on the roster, who was the incumbent QB from 2016 where they featured both Savage and the departing Brock Osweiler. With Osweiler gone, the notion around the organization was that Savage filled in admirably at the end of the 2016 season when Osweiler was out, and that he would be rewarded as the starter going into 2017 while Watson was being groomed and learning the NFL landscape as the backup. During the 1st half of the 2017 opener, Savage struggled and Bill O’Brien (actually a smart move for once) benched him for Watson, ultimately ending the Tom Savage era in Houston (Savage would go on and start 5 games in the middle of the season after Watson went down with a torn ACL, only to be replaced by TJ Yates due to a combination of sub-par play and suffering a concussion).
Deshaun Watson put up admirable numbers while leading the Texans to a 3-4 record before his rookie season ended, with 3 of those losses against playoff teams by a combined total of 14 points. The Texans lost the home opener to a GOOD Jacksonville 29-7 (the year they went to the AFC championship game) which Watson debuted in the 2nd half after Savage left them in a 19-0 hole. So overall, Watson had a pretty stellar rookie season, and followed up with two more remarkable seasons which he led the Texans to a combined 21-11 record and two AFC South titles. Of course, the Texans were never expected to be Super Bowl contenders under Bill O’Brien (I will not go into the long history of boneheaded moves by Bill O’Brien the GM, just know that the list is rather lengthy) and never made it past the divisional round.
All was relatively well in Houston going into 2020: Watson was poised for another excellent season, and combined for one of the Top 5 QB/WR duos in the NFL with [at this rate] future hall of famer DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans were expected to compete once again for an AFC South title, until Bonehead Bill O’Brien made a blockbuster move on March 20th. O’Brien decided that Hopkins wasn’t worthy of the pay raise he had asked for, so he jettisoned arguably the best receiver in the NFL to the Arizona Cardinals for a washed up running back in David Johnson, depriving Watson of his go to guy and acquiring his replacement in Brandin Cooks, who was on his 4th team in as many years. Whether you are a casual or diehard NFL fan, you knew that Watson was NOT happy with this move, even if he didn’t speak publicly on it right away. How could he be? Do I even have to waste time writing about why it was such a horrible trade, and that ownership signed off on it because that’s the price they paid for giving Bill O’Brien the keys to the franchise?
The Texans went 4-12 this past season, with only the losses to the Bears and Ravens being more than 2 score games. Bill O’Brien was FINALLY fired after the 0-4 start, which everyone knew was a breath of fresh air for Watson. He balled out this season, and continued to earn the respect of people around the country as he kept the Texans competitive in the majority of their games. The old saying goes: a team is only as good as the product they put out on the field, and the Texans didn’t have much bright spots aside from Watson. Let me take a few steps back for a second, and remind readers that prior to the season, Watson signed a four-year, $177.5 million extension with the Texans, the second largest contract ever behind the Patrick Mahomes MEGA-DEAL. Listen, I’m sure Watson was disgruntled with the Hopkins trade, but the organization was rewarding him with a contract that is just about impossible to pass on. Whatever happened behind closed doors, Watson decided that the Texans were invested in him, and that they would take care of him and build a contender around him to get him to sign off on the deal. I mean, why the hell would he sign the extension if management didn’t sell him on the future of the team.
So here we are, in 2021. The Texans are in search of a head coach and a GM, and Watson was led to believe that his input on the matter would carry some weight (this had to be part of the Texans selling him on signing the extension). He literally is the team, the face of the franchise, the most important player on that roster. Watson made a simple request that the Texans interview (and strongly consider hiring) Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy. If you follow the NFL, you know that Bienemy is not just run of the mill name, but perhaps the hottest NFL offensive assistant right now, and the top name on the coaching market. With the exception of not owning their #1 pick this year (3rd overall compliments of a Bill O’Brien move to acquire LT Laremy Tunsil which wasn’t a horrible move at the time as the Texans pick was expected to be mid to late round) the Texans proved to be one of the most, if not the top, desirable coaching position, which Bienemy must’ve been excited over. It’s one thing for Bienemy to go from coaching Patrick Mahomes to Sam Darnold, or grooming a rookie QB in Jacksonville, or to a void of uncertainty in Philadelphia (we’re almost there). But to be able to go from one top 5 QB to another top 5 QB has to be an offensive coach’s dream. BUT THE TEXANS DIDN’T EVEN INTERVIEW HIM!
Oh, and to gas the fire, the Texans went ahead and hired a GM, the man in charge of retooling the roster around Watson, without even consulting him. Reports have now come out that Watson wants out of Houston, regardless of the incoming coach which Houston made a sudden shift towards bringing in candidates for second interviews that Watson had previously recommended. Whatever happens with the QB situation in Houston, they will certainly need to address it immediately whether it be finding some way to reconcile with Watson, or use the tremendous trade haul he would command to rebuild the franchise on the fly. It should be noted that a Watson departure would certainly leave the new head coach in a puddle with a very broken locker room, as vocal team leaders such as JJ Watt have expressed disdain with the handling of Watson.
Part Two evaluating Wentz will come out in a few days