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It’s hard to know for sure where Deshaun Watson is coming from. He has kept the details of his protest private. But if the 25-year-old face of the Houston Texans just wanted to have a voice in the discussion about who his team’s next coach and general manager would be, then he should have a say.
CEO Cal McNair shows a lack of understanding of the modern athlete for not allowing it.
Watson is hope and optimism and good citizenship on a team that is run by dysfunction and disconnection from its own fan base. But this is an era of player involvement, player partnership. And McNair should have realized that to deny Watson even a seat at the table would be the same as pushing him out the door.
Watson supposedly wasn’t happy that the Texans hired general manager Nick Caserio without his input. And Caserio thought he was smoothing things over with Watson when he said, “We have zero interest in trading the player.’’
That was a message sent back from the 1970s, when the great movie North Dallas Forty came out and portrayed football players basically as meat.
That isn’t today. Watson isn’t just “the player,’’ as if you can’t tell him apart from anyone else on the team with a helmet. He is Deshaun Watson.
At first I had sort of been on the Texans’ side of this thing. I mean, it was just five months ago that Watson did sign a four-year, $156 million contract extension, including $74.9 million guaranteed. He became the league’s second highest-paid player.
So what’s the big deal if he doesn’t get to say who he’d like as the GM? Shut up and play, rich guy. In sports, getting paid big is getting respect. Besides, it would be nice to see him stick it out and help build the franchise rather than following the NBA route, running to another city and setting up another team.
TMZ asked legendary NFL coach Dick Vermeil what he thought the Texans should do with Watson, keep him or trade him.
“I think they change his diapers, OK?’’ Vermeil said. “Nowhere in his contract does it say that he’s involved in making the decisions of who coaches or who leads the organization.”
Of course, Vermeil is 84 and from a different era.
The Texans are a terrible organization. They were able to cut out the cancer that was coach and GM Bill O’Brien, who traded stud receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a mediocre running back and a bag of peanuts.
In Houston, everyone is always trying to show who’s the boss. And it didn’t work with O’Brien.
So why not let Watson speak and try to bring things back together?
Well, it seems unlikely the Texans will let another stud, Watson, go without making a real trade. That’s because the start of the NFL quarterback-go-round became official over the weekend when Detroit traded quarterback Matt Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams way overpaid for Stafford, giving up a third-round draft choice, two first-round picks and starting quarterback Jared Goff.
Goff is taking too much heat for his play. And the Lions are so bad they were never going to win with Stafford anyway. Now they can draft away while giving Goff a couple of years to show whether he can be the QB of the future there.
But as good as Stafford is, that was a huge load for a guy in his 30s going into the final third of his career. Watson is going to command much more.
John McClain, who has covered the NFL for the Houston Chronicle for the past 45 years, tweeted that if the Texans are going to give up Watson, “They’ll want 2 ones, 2 twos and 2 young defensive starters, at the least. Watson, 25, under contract, great QB, team leader, beloved by fans, pillar of the community.’’
With half the NFL teams unhappy with their quarterbacks, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Texans really were offered that much for Watson. Of course, let’s just say that the New York Jets offer up all of that: If Watson goes there, what will the Jets do to get players to go around him if they don’t have draft picks?
Reports say that Watson requested a trade after he had to read about Caserio’s hiring on social media and after the Texans weren’t interested in Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — Watson’s choice — for the head coaching job
The Texans are under no obligation to give him one. He’s under contract through 2025 and, according to ESPN’s figuring, the Texans could possibly franchise-tag him for three years too, which would give them control of his rights through the 2028 season.
So if they want to prove a point of who’s in control, they can do it. I guess Watson’s option would be to retire and then the Texans would miss out on all they could get for him. Or he could be miserable for the next eight years and make everyone around him miserable, too, the way James Harden did until the NBA Houston Rockets felt they had to get rid of him.
I don’t see Watson doing that, being that unprofessional. He might just be stuck with the hopes that the Texans will see this as a chance to start rebuilding, and not just to show who’s boss.
Watson could always unload on team owners publicly. But for now, he protests quietly. He scrubbed the word “Texans’’ from his social media accounts, replacing it with “athlete.’’
He should’ve said “player.’’