Prior to last week, the last time we'd heard anything publicly from Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, aside from a few promotional spots for Ultimate Tag on FOX, was after the team's evisceration at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Thanks for nothing, coronavirus! So we finally heard from Watt last week, both on a Zoom conference call with local and national media, and in a one on one with TMZ.
Here are my biggest takeaways from Watt's public conversations, all of which provide a pretty good status for where the future Hall of Famers is at age 31, heading into his tenth season with the team:
Watt is not seeking a new contract this offseason
For those who don't have the numbers in front of them, Watt has two years and $33 million of completely non-guaranteed money left on the contract extension that he signed way back prior to the 2014 season. There had been speculation about Watt getting some form of a new deal to lock him in for the remainder of his career, and maybe open up some cap space in the near term. Watt debunked that (transcript, courtesy of Texans PR):
With two years left on your contract and no guaranteed money left, do you want to sign a contract extension this offseason?
"No, I don't think that's necessary. I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not going to sit here and demand anything because I'm going out there to prove what I'm worth, and I believe that's the right situation for everybody. I think if I went back and asked for an extension, more money, anything right now, I think that would be the wrong move. I'm just going out there and trying to prove my worth and to help this team win games and do everything that I can to earn and make sure that these people know that I'm worth it."
There are two ways to take this quote, and, to be clear, neither of them is to scream "OH! Sounds like some shade thrown at DeAndre Hopkins!" First, I think there is a face value of this quote that is this — Watt clearly realizes that asking for a new deal with any sort of bump up in pay would look quite tone deaf, given that he's missed 32 of his last 64 games with injuries. So, in some sense, he is betting on himself, while exercising self awareness. Also, there's a decent chance that Watt may want to finish out his career elsewhere, if the Texans aren't showing signs of being in the Super Bowl mix, which brings us to.....
Man, J.J. Watt did not give a stirring answer as to why Bill O'Brien is good at his job
Before you click the video of Watt's answer to the O'Brien question below, let's look at his answer as to why Watt likes Anthony Weaver:
"I love Weave. I think Weave is an incredible coach, I think that he's a great man, I think that he's going to do an unbelievable job for us as d-coordinator. I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room , to be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense. I think he's done an incredible job with the d-line so far in doing those things, and I think he's going to do a great job as d-coordinator."
The words used here — love, incredible (twice), great (three times), fun.... now, here is Watt on O'Brien:
Asked what makes Bill O'Brien a good head coach, J.J. Watt really could not come up with a great answer on the spot. "That's his role and I think that's what obviously he excels at," is where he left it about 20 seconds later. pic.twitter.com/MIUcPJq9up— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) May 27, 2020
So Watt gushes for 40 seconds about his defensive coordinator, and then he gives off five poker tells while listing the job description for a head coach like he's reading off monster.com for O'Brien. That was a BAD 25 seconds or so for the Texans head coach, about as close as you can get to the opposite of an endorsement without actual criticism.
Watt is not thinking much about life after football, or so he says
Right now, the Watt brothers are riding the wave of very good ratings for their Ultimate Tag game show on FOX, and that's led to more questions about Watt's future. It seems like married life has settled down some of the overt brand building of Watt's younger years, as he seems more laid back now. There's no doubt he's set up for about a dozen different career avenues to choose from when he hangs up his pads and cleats. However, MMA will NOT be one of them. Check this out....
So there you go, offensive linemen! GO FOR THE SHINS!
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Watt got a lot of run over the weekend for his thoughts on George Floyd
Throughout his career, Watt's name has become synonymous with philanthropy, but has not really been associated with social justice. That's not a criticism, it's just a fact. So this was a great answer, I thought, in response to the question about George Floyd's death last week:
J.J. Watt on George Floyd's death: "I just don't see how a man in handcuffs on the ground who is clearly detained and clearly saying in distress ... I don't understand how that situation can't be remedied in a way that doesn't end in his death." pic.twitter.com/n45Ij9jaUq— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) May 27, 2020
Of the voices not really typically speaking out on issues like this, Watt's can be among the most powerful. It will be interesting to see this evolve over the coming weeks and months. Good for J.J. Watt.