As the NFL offseason kicks into full swing we are, once again, caught in the yearly “QB Carousel” that seems to take center stage every offseason. Teams scramble to try and snatch up the best available Quarterback via the draft, free agency, or trades in hopes that they can find the signal caller who will finally stabilize their organization. Usually, the only quarterbacks available are guys who didn’t pan out after being drafted in the first round, or veterans who were cut in favor of a young guy, or Ryan Fitzpatrick. This year we find ourselves in a bit of a rare circumstance. One of the best quarterbacks in the league is available, and he’s still not in the prime of his career. Yes, Tom Brady was available last year, but everyone knew he had 2-3 years left at most. Whichever team trades for Watson is undoubtedly expecting him to be the face of their franchise for the next decade and there are a half dozen teams who instantly become Super Bowl contenders just by making that trade.
Beyond asking what it would take to get Deshaun Watson, there’s an important question that needs to be asked. How is a guy that young and that talented available? Once in a while you’ll see someone talented become available because they’re such a headache in the locker room (Antonio Brown) or because they can’t stay healthy. Watson didn’t miss a game last year and is, by all accounts, a great teammate, so what is it that’s leading to him being on the trade market?
Simple, he’s in an incredibly unhealthy situation in Houston. Whether it was the toxicity of the Bill O’Brien era in Houston, the porous offensive line (Watson holds the record for consecutive games being sacked 4 or more times), or the seeming lack of a commitment to put a talented team around him it’s become clear that Houston is not a good fit for him, and that’s through little to no fault of his own, so he requested to be traded.
Watson’s trade request has led to some split reactions amongst NFL fans, some have empathized with his situation, some have taken the obligatory “shut up and play football” approach by insisting he “stay loyal” to the Texans and I want to address something with that crowd specifically.
Deshaun Watson is a young man with options, which is really what we should all aspire to have. Success isn’t something you can guarantee, but what you can do is make sure you’re never in a position where you’re stuck. Let’s put it this way, if some third-string rookie who has never played a snap in the NFL decided he was unhappy with how things were being run on his team and demanded a trade, the team would likely just cut him. When you’re in Watson’s position, you’re too valuable to just cut when you can at least get other assets in return, so the ball is really in his court.
What I don’t understand is people criticizing him for this. At the end of the day, NFL QB is just a job. Yes, it’s a job that pays him 20+ Million a year, but it’s still a job. Why should anyone subject themselves to going to a work environment where you aren’t appreciated and you’ve become stagnant when there are literally dozens of situations you could be in where you’d thrive and be happy. On top of that, an NFL career is a fleeting thing at best. One fluke hit is all it takes for you to lose your ability to continue your career, so knowing you only have a few years to seize this opportunity, why would you waste it putting your body on the line every week for an organization that doesn’t seem interested in creating a healthy situation for you.
The same people criticizing Watson say nothing when a high profile business executive leaves one company for another, they’d call it a shrewd decision made in their best interest, yet because he’s an athlete he doesn’t deserve the same right to mobility and pursuit of options we afford to the rest of society? Imagine being in a job you hate, and finally working up the courage to leave that job, and people go on national tv calling you a diva for saying you want a healthy work environment. It’s crazy.
“Well back in my day athletes didn’t do that, they shut their mouths and stayed loyal to a team” yeah, because back in your day there was something called the Reserve Clause that existed in every major sport in some shape or form that prohibited free agency for athletes making it so their options were either shut up or don’t play.
Though I won’t go as far as some by comparing what athletes in previous generations went through to slavery, I will say that you can’t deny the predatory nature of the professional sports leagues.
It baffles me that sports fans take the side of the billionaire owner over the players. It’s as though the owner is seen as “joe working-man” and the players are seen as the out of touch millionaires. I guarantee you that right now, some dude is sitting over a basket of wings at a sports bar complaining about Deshaun Watson wanting out of Houston, while in the same breath complaining about his boss and that he doesn’t make what he’s worth.
Do you know why Deshaun Watson is able to do this? Because Deshaun Watson has options. He’s done things the right way, he’s made himself desirable to the market, and when you do that you don’t have to stay in a bad situation, you can get out of it. We should be praising him for this not criticizing him. He’s doing what we all dream of doing, and I don’t mean playing quarterback in the NFL. He’s controlling his own destiny to the best of his ability, and that’s something we all strive for at some level. Instead of tearing people down for doing that, we should be looking to them of an example of how to do that for ourselves and trying to do the same.
Good for him being willing to bet on himself and not waste away with an organization that isn’t committed to winning. Here’s to hoping that he ends up in a good situation with the right team.