Sean Pendergast

Could J.J. Watt Return To Play for the Houston Texans?

Could we get another chapter of J.J. Watt in a Texans uniform?
Could we get another chapter of J.J. Watt in a Texans uniform? Photo by Eric Sauseda
When the season started for the Houston Texans, I had a pretty good idea on what the big stories for the team would be in 2023. First and foremost, the development (which has now become a rapid ascension) of C.J. Stroud was at the top of the list. Add in Will Anderson's development (in light of the trade to get him) and what kind of coach DeMeco Ryans would make, and out plate seemed pretty full.

I'll be honest, I did not see a possible return of J.J. Watt to the NFL, let alone the Houston Texans would even enter the Houston Texans' orbit. However, after various cuts from "The Pat McAfee Show" this season, the most recent one coming last Wednesday, it feels like there is a pulse to a return to the Texans. A faint pulse, but a pulse nonetheless.

Let's examine. There was this cut from September when Watt didn't rule out a possible return to football:
There was this one two weeks ago, in which he did the whole "If I were to come back, here are the teams, but I swear I'm not coming back" thing:
Then, this was the closest think to a smoking gun — nearly three minutes of McAfee semi-clowinig around about Watt coming back to the Texans, as J.J. was in Houston working out at NRG Stadium for the week:
Notice that none of these videos contains an emphatic, subject-killing "NO" from J.J. Watt. This is what keeps hope alive for Texans fans who would love to dust off their old number 99 jerseys. I think there are certainly arguments AGAINST the Texans (and J.J.) green lighting this move. There would be a feeling that J.J. is climbing onto a train late in the season, a train that others in the building have been working on all season.

However, there are obviously very VALID reasons to explore this, and follow though with a contract for the rest of the season. Here are three reasons:

The Texans need help in their pass rush
For most of the season, the Texans, as a team, have had pretty good pressure rates on quarterbacks, but they've had trouble accruing sacks. In other words, getting the quarterback on the ground has been a problem. Against the Jaguars on Sunday, the Texans had no sacks and just two QB hits. You know who was really good at getting quarterbacks on the ground, even as recently as last season? J.J. WATT! He had 12 sacks last season for the Cardinals, and well over 100 for his career. Assuming he can still play, and has no rust, Watt is a major impact player to add for a stretch run. So there's your football reason. Everything else is just soap opera and business. So let's discuss soap opera and business!

This gives J.J. Watt a chance to rewrite the last chapter of his Texans career
For an athlete who is an all time Houston great, there might not be a more depressing final season and ultimate departure than that of J.J. Watt. in 2020, Watt had to endure a 4-12 season, Bill O'Brien getting fired (which may have actually been one of Watt's happier moments, honestly), and Jack Easterby's mere existence. It all led to moments like this one in a late season press conference:
Ultimately, it led to Watt asking the McNair's to cut him, so he could go be a free agent, a request the McNair's honored, even though they were sad to see Watt go. Here was his farewell:
The rise of the Texans to respectability and a decent chance at the playoffs, not to mention playing with a true franchise quarterback (who is not a massage creeper), give Watt a chance to rewrite his final chapter as a Texan, and make it a happy ending (NOT a Deshaun Watson joke!) rather than the somber exodus he had back in early 2021.

If you're trying to put butts in seats, this is the move
We know that getting Texans fans back in the building on Sundays has been an ongoing challenge. Gradually, people are coming back, but the stadium still isn't sold out on Sundays, and the crowds that do come to the stadium are very late arriving. If you're looking to pop sellouts the rest of the season, bringing J.J. Watt back is the move. I have no idea if 100 percent of the ticket-holding public will arrive for kickoff, but I promise that the tickets will all get purchased!

Watt's next weekly appearance on McAfee's show comes this Wednesday. Let's see what happened next! This is a fun little side bar storyline to the most important Texans storyline — the franchise is respectable again.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at, on Instagram at, and like him on Facebook at
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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