*I wrote this in pieces, out of order and then assembled it after...I hope it makes some sense but not sure it does. I'll keep clarifying all week/season on this issue.*
You know what raises my Spidey-Senses on a player…when the media, and thus the fans, get so far out there on a particular player that you can’t avoid all the positive hysteria.
My dog got me up at 6:00am this morning, against my will. I plopped down on the couch to check the news and was shocked to find out that the Astros won Game 5 of the World Series. I saw the Astros down 3-0 in the 1st-inning when I checked on it and from what I hear about Clayton Kershaw…with him starting, that game was as good as over.
As I flipped through various sports channels, the topics reported went like this for priority: (1) The amazing Word Series Game 5. (2) Switching to football, how great is Deshaun Watson? Isn’t he the greatest?
Didn’t the Texans lose?
Didn’t Russell Wilson outplay him and have better statistics in the game?
Weren’t the Texans 2-for-10 on 3rd downs and Watson threw 3 picks?
I get that he had 400+ yards passing and 4 TD passes, and that should be noted positively and made a fuss over for sure…but if I didn’t know it from watching the game, just watching the sports news this morning I’d have thought the Texans won this game by 30+ points.
Watson played well, considering ‘at’ Seattle and being a rookie but the coverage is all slanted 110% positive and making him into a god…which is fine but why isn’t Russell Wilson being pushed as the co-star in this game? There is a reason I raise this question…
The media, and thus the fans, tend to get hysterical about rookies…especially QBs. We’re living in that world right now with Deshaun Watson.
Is it real? Is Watson going to change football as we know it? We’ll examine that. First, some important background to cover on the past five years of the media and their rookie QB hysteria.
The main headlines/themes/narratives on rookie QBs from their draft year – focusing on ‘name’ QBs the media love/hated since 2012…
2012: The big headline Andrew Luck v. Robert Griffin.
Rookie of the Year RG3 was going to change quarterbacking as we knew it. To be fair, ‘they’ liked Andrew Luck a lot too, but Luck struggled some out of the gates and RG3 took off like a rocket. Washington was set forever…and why did they waste time drafting Kirk Cousins?
Russell Wilson was forced in as a starter for Seattle, and for half his rookie season experts cried for Matt Flynn because Wilson wasn’t putting up a performance like RG3.
Nick Foles would be laughed at in 2012, and then he would come close to breaking records for QB efficiency the following year while the media yawned and/or tore him down. Foles’s 2nd season, in 2013, he would have a 7 TD/0 INT game, which was part of a 19 TDs/0 INT stretch to start the 2013 season, which was constantly reported as ‘not real’/lucky. No Deshaun Watson hysteria here. Not worthy of it.
Only ‘endorsed’ QBs get favorable coverage from the football media.
2013: E.J. Manuel was the future…8 games into his rookie season -- 9 TDs, 4 INTs and a couple late-game dramatics for a few wins as the forced opening-day starter for Buffalo. Finally, Buffalo had their future!! Geno Smith dropped a 3 TD/0 INT game against Atlanta on MNF his rookie season, taking the Jets to 3-2…and FINALLY the Jets had found their franchise QB…according to the experts.
Both QBs would become massive busts soon after their hot start.
In the end, no QB mattered from the 2013 draft class.
2014: Derek Carr was the greatest rookie QB the media had ever seen, while Blake Bortles was excused for a ‘bad’ year-one because Gus Bradley was changing the culture, but when Bortles had a huge season in year-two…he was thus proclaimed to be the Jags franchise QB for forever.
Teddy Bridgewater was mocked as a likely bust, and the Patriots were stupid to draft Jimmy Garoppolo when they already had Tom Brady.
2015: Jameis Winston was NOW the greatest rookie QB anyone had seen and was for sure the best young QB of the future of the NFL. Marcus Mariota was politely ignored in the Winston wake of greatness.
2016: Dak Prescott cannot keep up his lucky run…or so the media said every week of his epic winning streak as a rookie. For sure, he would have a sophomore slump in 2017. Carson Wentz was the better QB than Prescott because of Wentz’s hot start to his rookie campaign. And you can go ahead and close the book on Jared Goff, he’s no good the media declared.
2017: The Bears made a huge mistake drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Deshaun Watson is now the greatest rookie QB ever.
…and DeShone Kizer was hailed as the Browns franchise QB for the future in the preseason…but now we’re just ignoring that…and Moneyball is about to get fired.
Why do I mention any of this? Two reasons…
1: The media support and reporting is almost 100% in lock-step with each other on QB prospects. There is never any dissension…and they are almost always wrong on every interpretation, the ferocity of it they’ve had once a little more time plays out.
2: The media lives for two things…drama (like the national anthem or locker room squabbles) and seeing something they like working well in the moment and drowning you in how glorious it is. There is no discussion or criticism of what they like. Their coverage is not tempered or made in passing – it’s 24/7 glowing praise and adoration, like a chic downtown millennial nightclub with that never-ending dubstep/techno music with the bass constantly thumping.
Everything Deshaun Watson is doing…the only thing I see with the reporting is the football people trying to one-up the other with how much praise and conviction they can speak on the subject.
If I raise any skepticism it will be seen as hollow because I’ve bet against Watson becoming a star talent, and he’s becoming a mega-star of the moment…so now I’m just bitter, clinging to a ‘bad hand’ if I raise any issue or doubt. If I had a dime for every time some rookie QB blasted out of the gates to universal acceptance as a fait accompli star, but I doubted, and people then emailed me hate mail during the apex…I’d have at least a dollar by now.
A dime for Colin Kaepernick…who was going to change everything at quarterbacking as we knew it. A dime for Cam Newton (who everyone is turning on now). A dime for Geno Smith (who Jets fans on a message board crucified me on their site and then to my email after his breakout Week 5 performance on MNF in 2013). A dime for Johnny Manziel. A dime for Blake Bortles (doubting his year-two spike was real). A dime for Josh Freeman after his amazing one season. A dime coming my way with Jameis Winston. I’m not saying all the QBs I’ve mentioned in this paragraphs are busts…just that their value got so astronomical, but I thought the value was radically inflated and due for a fall.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I will say ‘I’ve been here before’ and I’m more right than the media or any other national football expert on such things. So, I’m not going to ignore my doubts just because ESPN throws all their weight behind a QB. Hell, it’s like the stock market – when everyone gets universally in love with a stock…that’s when it is time to sell. I could know nothing about football, but just bet against ESPN/the public and do just fine with my predictions taking contrarian positions for the sake of taking them.
I say all that to set the stage for saying – I’m still not sure about Deshaun Watson as a ‘star’. You will jump up with your fantasy pajamas on and say the guy has 16 TD passes in the last 4 weeks…debate over. I’m not saying I’m right and that he hasn’t been wonderful (especially for FF)…but I think we shouldn’t close the book just yet on Watson as a given for now and forever. I don’t think he’ll bust next week and fall off the face of the earth -- but what happens if he just settles into 250 +/- passing yards and 1-2 TD passes in games ahead. What if he goes from A+++ today to a solid ‘B’. Is that not worth discussing from a fantasy standpoint? Would you love to sell a stock at the absolute peak of its price?
Remember a few weeks ago when Kareem Hunt was the greatest RB of our lifetimes?
We, the people, tend to get very fast and loose with what’s ‘the greatest’…and we tend to change new ‘the greatest’s’ every 4-5 weeks or so. I think there might be ground to debate about Watson as an A+++ from here on in or a fade to ‘B’…or somewhere in between…or even lower. History says everything with Watson is overheated just by the nature of the media and fans.
So, what is it with Deshaun Watson? Media hype or real, sustainable star?
I re-watched this game this morning and I see flaws with Watson…and they are the kind of flaws that scare me because I’ve seen them before with this type of dual-threat QB. But I’m also left thinking, as I watched Wilson v. Watson mirroring each other…is this the future of football?
Both QBs in this game threw for 400+ yards and 4 TDs. Both teams couldn’t run the ball with RBs, so they just gave that up and started throwing…and neither team could hold off the other for very long.
I’ve been saying the new-era college QBs are coming into the pros are beyond prepared…in fact, the NFL is probably a step down compared to their college offense. These young QBs have playing 7-on-7s and attending QB camps since grade school. They don’t attend those camps to learn how to run the Wishbone offense better…they’re going to learn how to pass more effectively. Young QBs have thrown a billion more passes than Terry Bradshaw or Phil Simms, etc., had thrown by the time they hit the pros. If you can protect the new-era QB and just let them throw in a wide-open system…they’ll succeed. If you pair them with Jeff Fisher or Mike Zimmer or John Fox or Doug Marrone…they’re screwed/confined. Put them with Sean McVay and they’ll thrive…now, include Bill O’Brien to that list.
Deshaun Watson is running his college offense and is so comfortable with it he makes it look easy…it is easy to him. He’s been in that system forever. He’s been a dual-threat guy forever. Now, he’s getting that chance in the pros…and it works.
There’s a downside risk to all this.
First, every time the masses get hyped on a mobile QB…it falls apart. RG3, Kaepernick…even Russell Wilson and Marcus Mariota fell out favor/had their struggles (mostly game plan and O-Line induced). Actually, the media has never really taken a shine to Wilson or Mariota.
Second, I think the problem with Watson is – at his core…he’s not a very good passer. He’s a great read-option, plenty of time to throw, deliver the ball type of QB. He’s not incompetent…not at all. However, he is getting a little lucky, per se. You saw it in this game if you were looking – and when Seattle was looking they benefitted from it too. Watson drops back to pass, and if stuck in the pocket and having to make a quick read – he’s throwing it to DeAndre Hopkins whether he is open or not. Hopkins made several miraculous catches on passes to bail out ill-advised throws. Technically, that’s a bad thing by Watson…but the box score said 3-4 completions for 70+ yards from those miracle catches. On the other hand, it’s the new NFL. Just throw it out to a great WR and hope he catches it or draws a DPI…worse case, it just goes incomplete. When Seattle doubled Hopkins and Watson had to make a fast decision – that’s when you saw picks and near-picks…because Watson really is not a good, classical passer. It’s not his game.
It all sounds simple…keep Watson in the pocket and force his hand. The problem is – it’s been near impossible to do. Teams are afraid of Watson running, so they back off pressure. Watson then has all day to throw and the DBs can’t hold coverage that long. Put pressure on Watson and if he guesses the pressure right…he just dumps a flare pass or runs through it for yards. When it’s working, dual-threat QBs are impossible to stop.
However, somehow, the NFL always seems to find a way to stop dual-threat QBs, eventually. Or at least, contains them better than their initial splashes.
Is Watson going to get contained or is he breaking down the door once and for all?
My answer would be, right across from the field from Watson was a better version of Watson…a faster runner, far superior/more accurate passer – and no one really cares. We’ve all loved/hated Wilson for years. His production spikes and crashes without warning. As an NFL owner, I’d rather have Russell Wilson. Long-term dynasty, I’d rather have Wilson…if I knew the Seattle O-C was going to be removed. Right now, for 2017, Week 9…I’ll take Watson over Wilson and ride that train off a cliff if needed.
Eventually, Watson will slow down, some of those miracle passes to Hopkins will get picked off as defenses figure out tendencies and then copy each other on how to minimize Watson. I don’t think Watson is the guy that so elite that he’ll have an answer for when he gets figured out…he’s a one-note singer. Dak Prescott, I believe more in long-term…as do I believe in Russell Wilson, always have as a talent. Watson, he belongs in the NFL. He’ll be fine. I don’t think he’ll sustain A+++ forever or for long…and when he hits the wall it will be ugly for a bit.
For now, ride him. He has control of the offense and is allowed to run at will – that’s perfect for fantasy. When it starts to turn, his hype is so great that excuses will be made. There will be plenty of time to sell high if the time comes. Enjoy it while it lasts. I passed on him or traded him…and now getting beat by him. It’s not fun. It happens.
More like Watson are coming from college. Guys who are bigger, faster, better passers. The NFL is going to become a spread offense league but it will take a few years to wash out all these old-school head coaches and coordinators who come from an old-school defensive background that want to run all game to support the defense. Giant kudos to Bill O’Brien for recognizing the fork in the road and changing to adapt to Watson and not forcing him into ‘the Bill O’Brien system’.
-- I don’t want to leave out what Russell Wilson (26-41 for 452 yards, 4 TDs/1 INT) did in this game from this discussion. While the world is enamored with Watson, Wilson is having a helluva run and virtually no one cares or trusts it to sustain.
In their last five games:
4-1 record, 66.1% Comp. Pct., 38.4 pass attempts, 2.8 TDs/0.8 INTs, 330.4 pass yards = R. Wilson
3-2 record, 63.0% Comp. Pct., 31.4 pass attempts, 3.6 TDs/1.4 INTs, 294.4 pass yards = Watson
Strictly as passers, Wilson has 22.8 FF PPG (4pts per pass TD) in that five-game stretch and Watson 23.4 FF PPG.
If you tried to trade for Watson it would be impossible.
If you tried to trade for Wilson…very doable. His owner knows ‘this won’t last’…
-- If Watson and Wilson are going to continue to be throwing machines…then don’t doubt DeAndre Hopkins (8-224-1/11) and Will Fuller (5-125-2/8). I’m done betting against Will Fuller. I’ll just raise his projections to 27 TDs this season…that ought to cover it.
But also, then don’t doubt Doug Baldwin (6-54-0/10) and one of Paul Richardson (6-105-2/7) or Tyler Lockett (6-121-0/8) each week…maybe both Richardson and Lockett are WR3s week-to-week if Seattle continues to abandon the run.
-- Wow…Thomas Rawls (6-0-0, 0-0-0/1)…what a game. Stuffed repeatedly at the goal line and dropped an easy TD catch. Physically, he looks fine – this is just one horrific O-Line.
-- Jimmy Graham (4-39-2/5) scored 2 TDs, and all is right with the world… Not for me. I saw the same old Graham – stiff, lumbering but available for TDs. When Wilson is going off…Graham is a solid TE1 play because of his TD threat. His yards and reception tallies are just ‘meh’.
He’s scored 3 TDs the past two weeks facing two of the top 5 worst defenses against the TE in the league.
-- This is the third time in their past five games that Houston’s defense has allowed 30+ points to the opponent. The two teams they’ve held down in that span – Cleveland and Tennessee (when Mariota got hurt and Cassel played the majority). This is a really bad Texans’ defense…and that’s also helping Houston’s offensive production because they’re always in shootouts.
-- D’Onta Foreman (0-0-0-0-0-0) played one snap after being disciplined/benched/demoted in a sense.
You know, I think Foreman is a real talent but I am also beginning to think Foreman doesn’t have the head for this game. His brief time in the NFL has too many suspicious things happening off the field…from an effort, motivation standpoint.
I mention this – if you have Foreman stashed, and you’re going for the fantasy title this year…Foreman is a rookie I’m willing to part with to acquire things, for now, to help me win now. I’m not clutching onto Foreman for fear I’m losing a great one. I won't give him away, but he’s not untouchable for me. If that makes sense.
Snap Counts of Interest…
56 = Richardson
49 = Baldwin
39 = Lockett
41 = Rawls
16 = McKissic
12 = Lacy
62 = Lamar Miller
01 = Foreman