There are very few professional athletes to whom I have an emotional attachment. There are some players that I admire more than others, but when it comes to completing the sentence "[FILL IN ATHLETE NAME HERE] deserves better," I generally feel like sports is inherently a big pool of randomness, and no star player necessarily DESERVES a certain outcome any more than another star player. You may be great at your job, but if you wind up on a bad team, that's just the breaks. You deserve whatever the end results are. For most athletes, that's my code.
Having said all that, J.J. Watt deserves better. He deserves better than the roster of football rags Bill O'Brien surrounded him with, he deserves better than the Texans having ever put O'Brien in charge in the first place, and he deserves better than toiling for one of the worst teams in the NFL at age 31 and having to grinder his way back from THREE season ending injuries in the last four years.
It's been an awful 2020 for the Houston Texans, and it's turned every Watt press conference into must-see Zoom, in which we wonder every week if the ticking time bomb is going to explode. On Sunday, following the latest embarrassing, infuriating ending to a Texans game, a 37-31 loss to the less-lowly-than-the-Texans Bengals, detonation happened....
J.J. Watt was asked about regrouping and finishing the season and ... I'll let him take it from here. 10,000% pure unfiltered truth. pic.twitter.com/IOtsy9ELYr— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 27, 2020
This bit of audio and video was picked up everywhere nationally, praised by players and fans everywhere in a "Finally, somebody said it!" fashion. It even made national news outlets like CNN! With just one game left in this disaster of a season, here are some further thoughts on Watt's rant and where we go from here with J.J. Watt:
Was he calling out teammates, and if so, who?
We've gone back and forth all week on this very question on my radio show. My cohost (and former Texans defensive lineman) Seth Payne thought that this was more of a generic speech Watt would have given to any teammates needing to know why they should be putting forth great effort in a meaningless Week 17 game. To me, it sounded a little more specific than that, almost as if Watt was picturing certain teammates in his head as he was emoting. There are plenty of teammates Watt could call out for performing well UNDER their pay grade — Nick Martin, Whitney Mercilus, Eric Murray, to name a few — but it's hard to know what goes on behind the scenes from a professionalism standpoint. Just know that most of the sports world took Watt's words and ran with them as "Watt calling out his teammates." Hey, of that's the case, so be it. If anyone is allowed to do it, it's Watt.
Honestly, this explosion has been a long time coming
Here is J.J. Watt the day before Bill O'Brien was fired back in early October....
J.J. Watt: "We obviously have to do something different, we're 0-4, whatever we're doing isn't working. Something needs to change, something needs to be different ... but the only thing I know I can do is work harder, control what I can control, work harder, be better at my job." pic.twitter.com/ljHCAV3U0z— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 4, 2020
Here is J.J. Watt two weeks later after an overtime loss to the Titans....
Watt: "If we do our job and we tackle, we're alright. We didn't do that. That's never gonna win you games. Then when we do it right it's good! But we don't do it right anywhere near enough ... nowhere even close to the realm of enough. So it's extremely frustrating." pic.twitter.com/BZsnbwbhvd— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 18, 2020
And here is Watt from two weeks ago, following a 36-7 loss to Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears...
J.J. Watt was informed that the playoffs are mathematically impossible now.— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 14, 2020
"I think we had a pretty good idea of that before this game." pic.twitter.com/VFXdE0WL1d
So let's all agree that Watt exploding about professionalism and the dilapidated state of his current employer is not all that shocking.
The most remarkable answer to a question was actually one simple word
While Watt's long answer to regrouping for Week 17 got the lion's share of the attention, to me, the most remarkable answer of his five minute media session on Sunday was this one, a simple one word answer to the question "Is this the toughest season of your career?"
Think about that for a minute. Watt has been through a 2-14 season in 2013, and has been through three seasons that have ended early because of injury, two of which were absolutely gruesome injuries — herniated discs in his back and a tibial plateau fracture. And THIS season is SO bad that he didn't hesitate to confirm it's the hardest season he's ever endured. Way to go, O'Brien!
Is Sunday J.J. Watt's last game in a Texans uniform?
So now comes the million dollar question, and undoubtedly the biggest Texans storyline of the offseason once they hire a GM and a head coach — will J.J. Watt be in another team's uniform in 2021? For what it's worth, here's Watt addressing the issue at other times during this season. Here he is on the Wednesday following the Week 6 overtime loss to the Titans:
J.J. Watt on the possibility of getting traded versus a possible rebuild: "My goal since I got here was to bring a championship to the city of Houston, that remains my goal until the day I'm not a Houston Texan anymore that will always be my goal. That's what I'm working towards" pic.twitter.com/KIQoBP599X— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) October 21, 2020
Here is Watt on the Wednesday following the bye week:
J.J. Watt on legacy/finishing career with Texans: "I don't think it's any secret that I don't have 10 years left in this league. I personally believe that I do have a few more great ones left in me ... I'm not looking to rebuild, I'm looking to go after a championship." pic.twitter.com/zg5NMFYm2S— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) November 4, 2020
I don't know what happened with Watt. I want him to be here and end his career as a Texan, but I think the new head coach and the new general manager might need to cobble together their best sales pitch to keep Watt from requesting a trade to a contender.
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