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Armando Salguero: Tarnished Trio Teams Trying To Make Deshaun Watson Trade Work

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So now it’s primarily the Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers trying to figure out what to do next about Deshaun Watson.

And this is perfect because these three losing teams are all desperate to do something right for a change at a time none are doing anything well.

Consider the Texans first among this tarnished trio:

They’re desperate to trade Watson. They’re so desperate they leaked false information about a Watson trade being done by the end of last week because they wanted to see if anyone would step out and increase an offer for the former Pro Bowl quarterback.

Except no one is offering the three first-round draft picks and multiple second-round picks the Texans want.

So the Texans are so far sitting on Watson, not playing him, while they are absolutely horrible on the field.

How horrible?

The Texans were a league-high 18-point underdog at Arizona on Sunday. And in losing 31-5, they still didn’t come close to covering. The Cardinals scored on four consecutive possessions in the second and third quarter and the game was pretty much over after that.

The Texans have been outscored 102-8 in their last three road games.

Coach David Culley confirmed after this loss that Tyrod Taylor will begin to practice again this week in hopes of getting back in the lineup, but who is he kidding? Taylor is not going to save Houston, nor is he the franchise’s quarterback of tomorrow any more than Watson is following his unflinching trade request.

The Texans are a good two or three years from being competitive again, and that assumes someone pays their price for Watson and general manager Nick Caserio hits on most of the draft picks he gets out of the deal.

Both are big assumptions.

The Texans did get some good news Sunday in that the Panthers, seeing that their experiment with Sam Darnold is crashing and burning like a Hindenburg recreation, let it be known they’re going to rejoin the Watson trade talks.

A reminder that Watson has a no-trade clause and has so far only said he’d approve a trade to Miami — why, I have no idea.

But the Panthers don’t care because, remember, they’re desperate.

How desperate?

They’ve lost four in a row and quarterback Sam Darnold’s prematurely applauded early success has evaporated.

Darnold, a bust with the New York Jets after being drafted No. 3 overall in 2018, was benched Sunday during a 25-3 loss to the New York Giants.

“The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass somebody because I know that this is going to be the story this week,” Carolina coach Matt Rhule said afterward. “I really believe sometimes – you go back to the olden days before all the pressure, quarterbacks would sometimes sit for a little bit and have to come back. It’s almost, Sam will define who he is. This is up to him.”

Darnold defined who he is before he ever got to Carolina, except the Panthers didn’t see it. But in the last four games, he’s delivered six touchdowns and eight turnovers.

And he’s made Rhule sound like a coach who’s had enough when asked what his quarterback’s problems were.

“Throwing on time, taking the open receiver, being patient, protecting the football, not throwing off his back foot – I think some of the things that we’re seeing right now,” Rhule said. “I think we had some times on third down where guys were open and we’re predetermining, we’re thinking.

“Again, I understand young quarterbacks go through that, so we’re obviously not coaching Sam well enough, so this isn’t about Sam … But at the end of the day, as a coach, you’re standing on the sidelines and sometimes you’re just trying to create something to get the team going. I tried to do that, and it didn’t work out, obviously.”

The Panthers, you should recall, were beating their chests only a few days ago about not being interested in Watson.

And only days later, they’re fully intent on getting involved.

Yeah, that doesn’t sound knee-jerk at all.

Speaking of unstable, the Dolphins have been considered the favorite to land Watson for quite some time.

They have an actual offer in to the Texans, a league source told OutKick.com on Sunday.

As they have been trying to acquire Watson on one hand, they’ve been losing games at an alarming and disappointing pace on the other hand.

The Dolphins lost their sixth consecutive game Sunday, this time victimized by Atlanta rookie tight end’s Kyle Pitts going off by catching seven passes for 163 yards.

The Dolphins, you should know, were in position in April to draft Pitts or receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who Sunday had 201 receiving yards against the Baltimore Ravens, but they traded down from the No. 3 overall selection that would have guaranteed them either of those two players.

It’s those type of decisions that has the Dolphins no better off now than they were the first year coach Brian Flores was hired and paired with general manager Chris Grier in 2019. The trouble is that isn’t the only sign the Dolphins have wasted seasons and draft picks and salary cap space for years.

“I really thought they were going to be a playoff contender and obviously they’re not,” NBC analyst Tony Dungy said on national television Sunday. “Everybody’s asking, ‘What’s wrong with [quarterback] Tua [Tagovailoa]?’ But that defense is what worries me. They should be carrying the team and they’re really struggling on defense right now.”

The Dolphins’ defense, bottom 5 in 2019, is bottom 5 again in 2021. The unit has blown fourth-quarter leads against the Jaguars and Falcons in consecutive weeks.

The game-losing strategy Sunday was Miami using man coverage against Pitts on Atlanta’s game-winning drive in which the tight end caught two passes for 61 yards. Pitts said he was “surprised” to see that kind of coverage.

Despite this, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross apparently trusts Flores and Grier to bring Watson to Miami and have him eventually pick up where he left off in Houston. Eventually is operative here because Watson has 22 civil complaints and 10 criminal complaints alleging harassment and assault of a sexual nature pending, so his future is uncertain.

And what have Flores and Grier done to suggest to Ross they can get this done and turn the Dolphins around?

Nothing.

Because if (when) the Dolphins lose again next week — in a visit to the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills — Grier and Flores will find themselves with the exact 1-7 record they had to start the 2019 season when Flores joined Grier as the team’s decision-makers.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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