When the Houston Texans took Deshaun Watson with the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, one thing was clear. He was going to be the future franchise quarterback of the team. When Bill O’Brien started Tom Savage over him in Week One of that season only to bench Savage at the half for Watson, something else was evident.
Bill O’Brien didn’t have a clue on how to evaluate and use Watson—and still doesn’t. But after signing a well-deserved four-year extension with the Texans valued at $160 million, Watson is tied to the Texans for at least the next three years but probably through 2025. With that kind of contract, it’s not hard to understand why he might get a little emotional:
However, thanks to O’Brien’s roster moves, expectations in Houston need to be tempered. Watson may be lucky to do what Andy Dalton did in his day with the Cincinnati Bengals—lead them to early playoff exits.
Andy Dalton did not come out of TCU with as much fanfare and hype as Watson coming out of Clemson. But expectations were high for him with the Bengals. While he never led them to Super Bowl glory, he did lead them to two division titles (2013 and ’15) and five consecutive playoff berths (2011-15).
But each playoff berth ended with a loss in the wild card round.
Most would blame Dalton because he often seemed to struggle in big games, especially those in primetime. But the Bengals were never a great passing team or a great running team under Dalton. Dalton had a handful of great players to work with, but never enough.
Consequently, they were good enough to qualify for the postseason, and that was it.
Watson is one of those guys that is so athletic and talented that he can make guys look better than they are. He can help make bad ones look good, good ones look great, and turn great ones into legends. It’s a strategy Bill Belichick and Tom Brady used with great success with the Patriots.
O’Brien, who stems from the Belichick coaching tree, may be trying to do the same thing in Houston. However, to expect Watson to perform as Brady has, when the two have different skillsets and experiences, is unrealistic and unproductive.
Watson is a dynamic, exciting playmaker that can make magic happen on a football field; his highlights are proof of that.
But as great as he is, his record as a starter is unremarkable , 25-15 (regular season and playoffs). It’s only a shade better than Andy Dalton’s was after his first three seasons, 30-21.
For Houston to turn the corner and get past the divisional round, Watson needs help. He needs a running game he can count, an offensive line that can block, and quality receivers to work with.
But with the trades Bill O’Brien has made, the team can’t look to the draft for help. They don’t have a first-round pick until 2022.
However, since Watson is as good as he is, the Texans won’t be bad. But qualifying as good, much like Andy Dalton’s best Bengals teams, will be as much as they can hope for.