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Deshaun Watson did about the only thing that made sense while talking to reporters on Tuesday, as the Cleveland Browns continued their offseason conditioning program: He promised stuff’s going to be different.
He even made the point it’s already different for him in Cleveland.
“Honestly it’s night and day,” Watson said.
Some Things Haven’t Changed
In point of fact, it’s not quite all night and day. He still has some legal issues stemming from his well-documented habit of visiting massage therapists and not being able to conduct himself within normal social bounds.
He settled 23 suits, served an 11-game NFL suspension and paid a $5 million fine for those issues, but still has two more suits pending.
So the nightmare Watson caused isn’t quite over.
But he’s feeling pretty good the other horror he lived last year is definitely in the past. Remember that one?
- Six games started
- Seven touchdown passes, a career low and an obvious step back from his rookie year when he also started six games and threw 19 touchdown passes.
- 58.2 completion percentage, a career low.
- 6.5 yards average per pass attempt, a career low.
- 79.1 quarterback rating, a career low.
- 183.7 passing yards per game, a career low.
Deshaun Watson, who signed a fully guaranteed $230 million contract after he selected the Browns from a handful of teams vying to trade for him, was not even an average quarterback in 2022. He was unremarkable in every way.
No Excuses For Browns’ Watson
So this year definitely needs to be night and day different. Because the Browns and their fans that gave him something of a pass last season won’t be offering the same courtesy in 2023.
This year there’s no off-year of 2021 and a suspension to blame for rust, poor decisions and, worse, indecision.
There’s no dark cloud of off-field stresses to excuse on-field troubles.
Watson simply has no excuses.
To his credit, he doesn’t seem to be making any. Despite being in a division with a Bengals team that has risen to prominence, a Pittsburgh team that has enjoyed five decades of prominence, and a talented Baltimore team looking to regain its quarterback and prominence, Watson is expecting big things.
“A lot of W’s,” Watson said. “Having the opportunity to get in the playoffs and then once we get in the big dance, then anything can happen. I’m not the type to always make promises and things like that, so I’m not going to sit up here and do that, but the biggest thing is to win a lot of games, have this city rocking.
“And like Jim (Schwartz) said in his press conference, one of the biggest things that the city wants is to be able to have that parade at the end of the year. So that’s the ultimate goal, but we have steps and things and work to put in before we get there.”
Browns Optimistic About Watson In 2023
The Browns believe in Watson. Yeah, they don’t have a choice. But there seems to be genuine belief within the organization that last year’s Watson is gone for good.
“For Deshaun, to have that season under his belt and those experiences and be able to learn from everything that’s happened last year into the past, I think he’ll be a better player for it,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. “I think we’ll all be better for everything we’ve been through.”
There will be skeptics about that. Cleveland, after all, finished last in the division last season.
Watson realizes that and understands the only way to change opinions is to change last year’s results.
“I have an opportunity to go out there and prove what I need to prove in 2023,” Watson said, “and that’s what I’m focused on.”