- Watt has 10 years of NFL collisions in his rear view mirror but the defensive end is still capable of taking over games.
- Watt expressed his anger following a Week 15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
- “If you can’t come in and put work in in the building, go out to the practice field and work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not be here,” he said.
There comes a time when an elite athlete has to ask that eternal question:
Will I ever win here?
For Houston Texans legend J.J. Watt, he need not bother to ask. He knows the answer.
It’s time to go.
Watt has about 10 years of NFL collisions in his rearview mirror, but the defensive end is still capable of taking over games in bursts. His bust in Canton is secure, but right now his team has no Super Bowl in its foreseeable future despite the presence of a great young quarterback in Deshaun Watson.
If Watt, 31, wants to win while he still has some tread left, then he must seek greener pastures. He isn’t happy with what’s going on in his locker room, having voiced his displeasure after last weekend’s 37-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He launched into an angry, expletive-filled rant in a postgame interview, expressing feelings that are undoubtedly shared by Texans fans who have watched a once-proud franchise slip well past mediocrity into the land of the abysmal.
His frustration centered squarely on the heart or lack of heart showed by unnamed teammates he believes aren’t doing what it takes to live up to the status of wearing a Texans uniform.
“We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money,” Watt said. “If you can’t come in and put work in in the building, go out to the practice field and work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not be here. This is a job. We are getting paid a whole lot of money.”
Watt sees this for what it is: a dumpster fire. With one game left in the regular season, Houston will finish 4-12 after the artists formerly known as the Houston Oilers finish off what’s left of the Texans’ carcass.
The Tennessee Titans will officially end Houston’s two-year reign as division champ in Sunday’s regular-season finale and earn a playoff berth with a road win or a Colts loss. While Houston burns, Tennessee, fresh off an appearance in last season’s AFC title game, is eager to take it up another notch in a conference that’s up for grabs even with the understanding that the Kansas City Chiefs are the obvious favorite to win another Super Bowl.
The Texans don’t have the requisite juice to prevent Derrick Henry and Co. from rolling into the postseason, and Watt has a real decision on his hands. This will be their worst finish since 2017, when Watson, then a rookie, tore his ACL seven games into the season.
“Man, it’s horrible,” wideout Brandin Cooks told reporters, a sentiment shared by Watt, a three-time defensive player of the year and a longtime face of not only the franchise but the city. He assisted in raising more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey victims who were left homeless in 2017 and has always expressed love for his fellow Houstonians.
With that said, any hopes of a Super Bowl ring in Houston would only come with a rebuild under a new head coach — Eric Bieniemy, anybody? — who might take years to get this ship back on a steady course toward respectability.
If he’s serious about chasing a title, Watt doesn’t have a whole lot of time on his hands. He doesn’t dominate the way he used to and represents a health risk with only three sacks over the past 13 games. He also represents significant health risk for a potential new employer, having missed 33 of a possible 80 games over the past five years.
Plus, his team is nowhere near what it was just last season. At this rate, he is on pace to join Hall of Famers Deacon Jones, Dick Butkus, Lee Roy Selmon and John Randle on a long list of great defensive players who never appeared in a Super Bowl.
Ever the inventory taker, Watt sees what’s going on around him. Houston did win four division titles under former coach Bill O’Brien, but the organization wasn’t on an upward arc. When O’Brien won what I believed to be a power struggle with general manager Rick Smith, who left after the 2017 season, it all went downhill not soon after.
After being named GM, O’Brien gave away DeAndre Hopkins — the best wideout in franchise history not named Andre Johnson — for past-his-short-prime running back David Johnson and draft picks. This came after he traded multiple picks to Miami for left tackle Laremy Tunsil in 2019.
Now the best defensive lineman of his generation is speaking out. Watt said he felt the worst for Texans fans who have had to to suffer through this abomination of a season.
He could stay and play out his contract and go elsewhere or he could force a trade now and not waste another season of what’s left of his career. After watching Tennessee fail to put any real pass-rush pressure on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers last week — the Titans have a league-worst 15 sacks — Music City would be a great destination if he truly desires to compete for a championship.
He is due $21 million in 2021 — the last season on a six-year, $100 deal — and it’s nonguaranteed money, making a potential trade a much easier proposition.
Watt should leave. He has given this franchise everything, and no one would blame him after a decade of placing team goals ahead of his own.