The Houston Texans seem to think they’ll win a standoff with quarterback Deshaun Watson. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle knows that the team won’t.
McClain, who has covered the Texans since their debut in 2002 and the Houston Oilers before that, makes the case that the time has come for the Texans to trade Watson. McClain’s voice is an important one; he’s been part of the fabric of Houston sports for decades. His words have impact. His voice has influence. Any Texans fans who don’t already understand and support Watson’s concerns will be more likely to do so once reading McClain’s column on the matter.
Many national voices have been saying for weeks what McClain is currently saying. It will be much harder for the Texans to ignore McClain than it has been for the team to ignore the opinions of outsiders.
McClain also makes a point locally that some have made nationally: The Texans should try to pit the Jets against the Dolphins for Watson, which could spark a bidding war that will get the Texans even more for Watson.
There are conflicting reports on whether Watson actually wants to play for the Jets, however. The challenge for Watson becomes finding a new team that, in giving up whatever it must to get Watson, won’t plunge into a perpetual 6-10 cycle during Watson’s prime years. The Dolphins, with the third overall pick (from Houston) and second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, seem to have the ammunition to make the deal without compromising the current trajectory of the team.
The Dolphins also would be well-suited to admit that, as short-list franchise quarterbacks go, Tagovailoa likely won’t become one.
Whether it’s the Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, 49ers, Panthers, or someone else, McClain is right. The Texans need to accept reality and get the best deal for Watson, now. As time passes, interested teams will move on to other options, narrowing the universe of potential Watson destinations. Few doubt that Watson will stay away from the team, which means that the Texans need to be prepared to not have Watson this year and to not get anything in return for him, other than the $20.2 million he’d forfeit and/or pay for the privilege of not playing for the Texans.
That money, while hardly chump change, will do nothing to make a bad team better. Jerking around Watson won’t do much to persuade players with options to choose the Texans, either.
That’s the other issue that should concern the Texans. Other players are watching this steaming vat of dysfunction, looking for signs that the Texans willing and able to admit their wayward course and turn things around. Setting up a season-long standoff with Watson is not the way to do it; acknowledging responsibility for the deterioration of the relationship becomes the first step in persuading others that the Texans understand what it will take to begin to behave like a normal NFL franchise.
Getting rid of Jack Easterby wouldn’t hurt, either. But the Texans need to re-learn to walk before they can re-learn to run.