Do Not Blame Deshaun Watson for This Mess

Want to blame someone, Texans fans? Don't blame Deashaun.
Want to blame someone, Texans fans? Don't blame Deashaun. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The Houston Chronicle still gets "letters to the editor" it would seem, although we assume these are more frequently of the electronic variety than the ones that come in an envelope. And they print these on weekends when the only people reading them are those who one, still get a physical paper, and, two, are bored with reading the regular online comments (you can find the letters online too).

This past weekend, the letter featured was one from someone suggesting that Deshaun Watson should not be requesting a trade given his contract status. Among those who have begun to turn against the Texans young star quarterback, this is a familiar refrain. "You're under contract. Deal with it!"

Never mind the fact that this sets aside loads of good arguments not to want to play for the Texans including the possibility of squandering a career with an incredibly poorly-run organization (ask Andre Johnson or JJ Watt), or that the team has taken for granted its most valuable asset (probably more so even than NRG Stadium itself) and ignored even his requests for involvement.

But, what was so striking about this particular letter was how it suggested a role model for Watson: Hakeem Olajuwon.

We recognize that Olajuwon is absolutely revered in the city of Houston. He should be. He not only led the Rockets to the city's first two championships, but he has been a model citizen, going even beyond a sports icon.

click to enlarge Hakeem Olajuwon was once an enemy of Houston fans. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
Hakeem Olajuwon was once an enemy of Houston fans.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
However, perhaps it is revisionist history or maybe the person writing the letter simply doesn't know, but Olajuwon tried to force his way out of Houston too. Before the titles, Olajuwon became embroiled in a nasty dispute with Rockets owner Charlie Thomas and the team was actually pretty close to trading him to the Clippers.

In fact, the team and many fans began to believe that The Dream was faking an injury while demanding a new contract. It got really, really ugly.

Frankly, the Watson situation isn't remotely close to this in terms of arguments. There hasn't been any arguing. Watson is just done with the Texans as are many of their fans. He wanted to be at the table when they made critical decisions, particularly when it came to a new GM and coach. He had to find out on social media that Nick Caserio was the new GM.

The whole thing has been an incredible embarrassment for the organization even if they don't seem to think so.

During the Olajuwon-Thomas row, it was much more public. Both sides were bitter. Fans were furious, mostly with "the player." Of course, they quickly forgot once Thomas and Dream patched up their differences on a plane flight to Tokyo. If that's all it took, someone should force Cal McNair and Watson onto the team's private jet and keep them circling the globe until they figure it out.

But, this feels beyond that even if the most public responses we get from Watson come in the form of throwing shade via social media. And none of it is Watson's fault.

Sure, he signed a contract knowing Jack Easterby and McNair were still running things, but it seems almost a given that when he discussed things with McNair, he was clear that the team needed a new direction and culture. He was clearly thinking no way the McNairs sign on to Pastor Jack for the long term, yet here we are.

The Texans should take a page from Thomas, who recently passed away, and figure out how to make it right. Stop pretending this isn't the big deal that it is. Quit behaving like some bizarre cult when you are 4-12 with a rookie GM and a 65-year-old rookie coach. Maybe Watson will listen like Olajuwon did on that fateful flight.

Then again, maybe he won't. If not, Texans fans have only one place to look when assigning blame and it isn't at Watson.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke