Let’s give credit to Deshaun Watson before we dive in any further. He’s earned it.
Last Wednesday night, just 134 miles east of where the former first round quarterback played his collegiate ball and led the Tigers back to National Championship glory, he dazzled. He shined bright on the Carolina turf. He was everything Texans fans wanted and then some as in his first NFL game, Watson went 15-25 for 179 passing yards and one touchdown.
As he walked into the end zone on a busted coverage 15-yard touchdown run, he began giving high fives to fans in Carolina Panthers jerseys. He was smiling heading back to the bench as he embraced his head football coach Bill O’Brien. The media outlets from local Houston news to NFL Network praised the first round pick for his performance.
It was a brilliant outing from the 21-year-old, two-time Davey O’Brien gunslinger. His confidence, arm strength, accuracy, mental awareness and poise not only kept him locked and loaded for two and half strong quarters of football, but it gave hope.
Hope to a franchise that’s motto since the early decade has been “a quarterback away." Hope to season ticket holders who have sat high in the stands and watch mediocre quarterback play. Hope to the faithful who have watched star players such as Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Dunta Robinson, Mario Williams and multiple more leave Houston without a ring, with a Super Bowl appearance, and without a Conference Championship appearance.
It’s safe to say that those fans are ready to sign the Devil’s dotted line and put Watson under center week 1 when Jacksonville comes to visit. The same might be said now about O’Brien and staff with recent news coming from West Virginia.
On Monday, news broke Houston from the hills of West Virginia. It was a simple tweet, but one of the most powerful messages sent that day. In just 100 characters, fans were clinched to their laptops and smart phones, waiting to hear what else was in store.
While O’Brien later downplayed the rumors of Watson taking over first team reps, his message was clear. No words were uttered to know what rambled in the mind of the fourth year coach, they didn’t need to be. There was no exchange of words as O’Brien left the podium and headed off until the film, the writing had been carved into the wall.
“The basic goal is for him to get reps,” O’Brien said Monday. “He’s improving in his knowledge of our system and understanding the defensive looks. He tries to come back the next day and learn from his mistakes and build on the things he is doing well so I just want to see continued improvement.”
Take that for what you will, but there is only one answer. DeShaun Watson is the future of the Houston Texans, and the future will be arriving sooner than you think.
“To get out there and experience my first NFL game, it was fun,” Watson said following his first game. “It was awesome just to be able to have that support and that fan base, especially when I come back to this area. I thank all of my fans and the people that support me.”
This upcoming weekend, the Texans will travel back to NRG Stadium for the first time since their wild card victory over the Oakland Raiders last January.
They’ll suit up in their Steel Blue jerseys and trot out on the field. Just six months earlier, James White and the New England Patriots battled back from a 28-3 deficit to hoist their fifth Lombardi Trophy in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. They will try to take the sour taste of defeat still lingering in their mouths as they take the field.
Just six months earlier, James White and the New England Patriots battled back from a 28-3 deficit to hoist their fifth Lombardi Trophy in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. They will try to take the sour taste of defeat still lingering in their mouths as they take the field.
You can bet that Tom Savage as of today will also be taking the field for several series.
You can also bet that Watson will at least see one series against Matt Patrica’s first team defense. The message is clear and football Gods have spoken. Watson will be coming to an NFL stadium near you.
But with great power, comes great responsibility.
Sorry Stan Lee for taking that line but now more than ever, this message needs to be heard. No, not by GM Rick Smith, who traded away basically two first round and second picks for Watson. Not by “quarterback guru” O’Brien who will decide by September 10th if Watson is going to be the starter. Not even by Watson, who will do everything in his power the rest of the preseason to build himself up to become the next great NFL quarterback.
This message is to the Texans faithful who remember the days of David Carr, Matt Schaub, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer and he who will not be named in the land of Rock and Roll. The Houston Texans have found their quarterback, but he’ll need some time to adjust to the NFL.
We can pretend this is still Savage’s team, because it is, for now. But three plus years and still unable to take the reigns at quarterback isn’t promising. Yes, Savage was able to start last season, but it wasn’t because he was ready, he was simply the only option.
He’s not anymore, even if Watson takes the time to grow.
Take Watson’s outing last week with a grain of salt. Yes, in the pocket, he looked calm, confident, ready to take on the world. He made the right reads, called the proper check-downs, didn’t force throws and placed the ball in an area only his receiver could reach. He did all that and impressed.
Against a second team defense.
Make no mistake, it was his first outing in an NFL uniform and people should praise the young man for performing admirably. However, the fans and analyst who praise him should also realize that his stellar outing was against the 29th-ranked second team pass defense last season.
Let’s not also forget several throws Watson overthrew his target. Known for his arm strength, but also his inconsistency of over shooting his target at Clemson, Watson collected 32 career interceptions in three seasons at Clemson. A majority of them were on overthrown targets into the hand of a high defensive back.
The good news for Watson; he’s learning from a veteran presence evaluator in Bill O’Brien, playing in a similar offensive set he saw at Clemson and is taking it day by day in practice with his teammates.
The bad news for Watson; fans want the results now and for him to named the starting quarterback by tomorrow.
The fact of the matter is; that’s not going to happen. The Texans have shown they are putting their faith in a 21-year-old early by granting him a few snaps in practice with Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins. That’s enough for now.
One of the worst things a team could do is rush a quarterback into playing too early. The Texans have a quarterback for the future in Watson if they allow him to grow. Once considered by many the top quarterback prospect, No. 4 is now being asked to take off the headset and be thrown into the fire against the defending Super Bowl champs.
And he will be thrown. But the outcome may not be what Texans fans want. He could walk away with the starting job in his back pocket, making the rest history. Or, he could show rookie mistakes against a solid team and only grow from there.
A thing I was taught from a young age is “you don’t know how it feels until you try it”. One doesn’t know the joy of riding a bike until the pedal down their street. One doesn’t know the fun of playing catch with friends until they pick up a mitt and toss the baseball.
And Deshaun Watson can’t grow without failing first.
He’ll need to play against first team defenses if he wants to lead become the Texans franchise quarterback. He’ll need to throw interceptions to learn a defensive backs quirks and patterns. He’ll need to be sacked and thrown on the ground by the best in order to know how to avoid them in the pocket.
No matter the outcome against the New England Patriots, or any other team he faces, Watson is now in growing mode as a franchise quarterback.
Texans fans, get ready, no matter how his 2017 season ends. Watson is coming, ready or not.