Sean Pendergast

Six Most Head Scratching Answers From Deshaun Watson's Cleveland Intro Presser

Deshaun Watson was introduced to his new city on Friday, and the media was relentless with questions about his legal saga.
Deshaun Watson was introduced to his new city on Friday, and the media was relentless with questions about his legal saga. Screen grab from YouTube
There is no more coveted asset in professional sports than the franchise quarterback in the National Football League. The impact they have on games, combined with the daunting scarcity with which they exist make them the holy grail of player acquisitions. When you get one, you celebrate him, and then you do everything you can to keep him.

On Friday, the Cleveland Browns unveiled their first franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar in the late '80s, as they introduced former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson at an afternoon press conference that drew a full house of local and national football media. Of course, the biggest reason the presser was such a draw was due to the fact that Watson is still facing 22 plaintiffs in civil court over sexual misconduct allegations. That, and the Browns deciding to make him, BY FAR, the highest paid player ever, with a $230 million guaranteed contract.

This press conference was the opposite of a celebration. This was tense, awkward, and if Browns fans are being honest, most of them probably felt a little dirty afterward, that a guy facing THESE accusations to this voluminous degree, is their franchise quarterback.

For now, at least, Deshaun Watson still intends to fight these plaintiffs in court to clear his name. If he's able to do that, then Browns fans will likely, eventually be able to truly enjoy their new acquisition. Some Browns fans may enjoy him even sooner than that. Hell, some ALREADY enjoy having Watson on their squad! That's professional sports.

As for Watson's performance at this press conference on Friday, I give him about a C-. He gets an A- for handling all the questions related to his legal issues. There wasn't much he could say, but I thought he straddled the line of sticking up for himself while not incriminating himself pretty well. He stuck to the script, and did so very calmly.

The rest of it was, eh, kind of messy.

His body language sucked, but that was understandable, as there were probably a million other places he'd have rather been. The big thing was this — several of answers still show a serious lack of self awareness. If you want to go ahead and watch the whole presser, and pick out the cringeworthy answers yourself, here's the YouTube video. My six answers I found, well, INTERESTING are below:

Here are six answers I'd like to have back if I were Deshaun Watson, with the transcribed quote and my reaction:

1. On what Watson wants people to know about him as a person, given some fans’ concerns about him joining the Browns:
Watson: “The biggest thing for me is as a person is I am genuine, I am a hard-working and a servant leader who loves to be social in the community and who loves to give back and am very kind of team-oriented so I love hanging out with my teammates. Also, I want to be able to show that eventually and get out into the community. I have always been hands-on in the community of Houston, back home in Gainesville and back home in Clemson, and that is what I want to do is be able to get back to that brand or get back to that person that people knew I was before all of these allegations.”

SP: The transcript of the answer may not read as badly as the actual utterance from Deshaun. When he said he wants to be able to get back to that BRAND, he very quickly caught himself, and pivoted from BRAND to PERSON. People in Cleveland will learn this quickly about Deshaun — he is very much about branding and image, which is fine when things are going well on the field. When things are not going well on the field, or when things are going poorly off the field, it can be a little annoying. Also, I think it's possibly a glimpse into the pain Watson feels over losing sponsors through this ordeal, because it's the BRAND that is losing the sponsors as much as, if not more than, the person Deshaun Watson.

2. On explaining the number of massage therapists Watson employed in the past:
Watson: “I can’t get too far into detail because there is an ongoing investigation still, but I can say that with this now day and age, especially with my age group, social media is a big business part that goes into it. That is a factor into, it but as far as the details, I can’t get too far into it because there is an investigation going on. Hopefully, once everything is resolved, I can speak freely on it.”

SP: I'm guessing Deshaun didn't mean it this way, but this came across as "social media made me do it." I'm guessing his goal was to get away from these types of questions as quickly as he could, with as little self incrimination as possible. I'm trying to somehow twist this answer into one that benefits him, and the only thing that even comes close is "This is how we young folks do business these days, over social media," but that still doesn't explain why you had FORTY MASSAGE THERAPISTS in a year, man!

3. On Watson initially saying the Browns were out of consideration before ultimately joining the team and how much the contract influenced the decision:
Watson: “Actually, it had nothing to do with the contract. I did not know about the contract until I told my agent that I wanted to come and be a Cleveland Brown. That was secondary. That was after the fact that we spoke on the phone with AB, Kevin and the Haslam family. That had nothing to do with me choosing the Cleveland Browns.”

SP: This was a rich answer from Watson, no pun intended. That he was torn on all the football aspects of his suitors, while his agent, David Mulugheta, was off in another room reworking his contract, and that when Deshaun chose a team, the contract reveal to him was like some sort of surprise party. That's absurd. Especially, when you consider this was an actual post the day after the trade from his agent (and shared by Watson on his timeline):
Also, I'm not sure if Watson realizes that his saying "the contract had nothing to do with it" makes his GM and owner look totally foolish in paying $80 million MORE guaranteed than the next biggest guarantee in NFL history. Nice job, Deshaun, yeesh.

4. On what led Watson to change his mind and join the Browns:
Watson: “It was not necessarily a turndown. I think the media was kind of rushing me to make a decision, and I was not comfortable making that right decision. The news gets out and things like that, but for me, I knew that Cleveland was the best situation from a football standpoint and a community and family atmosphere. These guys mentioned it before, once I got to meet these guys – Coach Kevin, AB and the Haslam family – there was just that connection that we just had that bond, and I knew that this was a perfect situation for me to have a fresh start, go win some Super Bowls and move forward and build this community as where we want to build it as.”

SP: This was another one that was like "Okay, bruh, whatever," The MEDIA was rushing him into a decision, so he turned down the Browns. Dude, as a media member, we didn't even know what your process was for picking a team, other than reports that you were meeting with all of them from March 14 through March 16. Honestly, if anything, we were settled in expecting you to take longer than you did to make your decision, because this whole ordeal was interminably long to begin with. The funny thing about this answer — "the media made me do it!" — is that if you asked Watson a separate question like "What do you think of how you're being portrayed in the media?", I would bet dollars to donuts that he would say some version of "I don't pay any attention to what the media says." Book it.

5. On what work Watson will do in the community and personally going forward, including potentially working with women-focused groups:
Watson: “Definitely [will do community work]. Especially on the end of that question, working with women’s groups, I think it has to be something that I have to earn that trust to be honest. I have to earn that trust back into the community so I can step out. I do not want to just jump out and make it seem like I am just doing it just to try to clear my name. I have always been a community leader with Habitat for Humanity, with kids with cancer because my mom had tongue cancer, with education, giving back to schools and also with just all types of charity work around the community of building communities, building houses and things. I am going to work with this organization and my team to [identify] the perfect opportunity for us to come out and just help because I have always been that type of person. That is how I was raised. That is why I continue to say I am a servant leader because I wrote a book on it. That is how I was before any of these allegations. At the same time, I know and I am not naïve to the point that I have to earn that trust back from the community and people outside who are looking at these allegations and have not spoken to me before. That is my goal is to be able to earn that trust and keep pushing forward.”

SP: This was actually one of Watson's better answers of the presser, acknowledging that he had to earn the trust of the community before jumping in both feet first. That was actually an excellent answer, I thought. I just got a chuckle out of him acknowledging he wrote a book about "being a servant leader," like he was Stephen Covey touting the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," or something. That tickled me.

6. On if he has any regrets:
Watson: “I do not have any regrets. Like I said before, the things that are off the field right now that came up caught me by surprise because I never did anything that these people are alleging. I know a lot of people say that I took the year off – I used that to be able to clear my name in the previous two weeks, and just continuing to fight that. I just continue to work and become a better person, a better player and just a better son, like my mom has always taught me.”

SP: Okay, this was the big one. Deshaun saying the words "I do not have any regrets," and the debate over whether it was a genuine answer or something you say when you're being sued by 22 women and plan to fight them in court. On the surface, Watson HAS to have regrets, at the very least, over using a super sloppy (and honestly, a little creepy) massage scheduling methodology that puts him in the position to where he could BE accused of these things (if, as he contends, he did none of them).  It's illogical for someone who has been through what Watson's gone through in the last year to not at least have some procedural regret, even if he doesn't have contrition-style regret. The argument over Watson's answer being acceptable from a legal standpoint is that he should show no weakness, that Rusty Hardin has tried to normalize the sheer volume of the massage therapists used, and admitting regret admits IT IS NOT NORMAL. It's an interesting debate, but the most important thing may be how Roger Goodell hears that answer, and does he see it as a slightly revolting lack of contrition when it comes time to punish Watson with a suspension.

Of course, without Watson saying he has no regrets, we wouldn't have gotten this meme, and THAT would have been a real shame:
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast