“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by Jack Easterby sticking his nose in someone else’s business.”
We may have to workshop that one a bit, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue quite like the original, but hey, it’s the offseason. We have spare time.
With former head coach Bill O’Brien long gone after an 0-4 start, the rest of the Texans organization apparently being very willing to talk to the press about how actually, comparing Jack Easterby to Game of Thrones characters is not a compliment, and new-ish chairman and CEO Cal McNair allegedly telling QB Deshaun Watson he wanted him involved in the coaching search and then promptly ignoring his input, that brings us to — who else — sources saying that Deshaun wants out.
Actually, saying Watson “wants out” may be a bit generous; those aforementioned sources were the ones saying he’s played his last snap for the team, and that the Texans were/are already talking about what a trade could look like and who might be interested.
Which, whatever. Players do and say stuff like that all the time and dare the team to call their bluff.
And then, earlier this week, there was this:
NFL personnel unanimous: Acquiring Deshaun Watson in a trade would take at least three first-round picks. https://t.co/lOVvnZnewc— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 20, 2021
Now before we go any further, yes, of course, our fearless leader Bernd wrote yesterday about how the Texans beat sees Houston and New England wheeling and dealing for Watson to almost certainly not be an actual thing that happens. Here’s the full ‘graph from the Houston Chronicle:
It’s hard to envision Bill Belichick entertaining a huge trade for Watson despite the struggles of Cam Newton as Tom Brady’s replacement last season. ... [T]here are a lot of connections between New England and the Texans, given the presence of former Patriots staffers Caserio and executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby in Houston. A Watson trade is still considered a highly unlikely scenario.
This anonymous NFL GM quote also was both “yeah, that makes perfect sense” and also “......we are talking about the same Texans we’ve been watching for the past 18 months, right?”
“It’s crazy to think the Texans would be dumb enough to trade Deshaun,” he told Wilson. “Nick Caserio is a very smart guy. I would bet he figures out a way to make Deshaun happy and fix this thing before it gets further out of hand. They don’t play a game until September, so there’s a lot of time to smooth things over.”
So with all those cards on the table, then, and we’re all on the same page that this trade possibility is probably dead in the water and no more realistic than trading for Larry Fitzgerald back in the day:
If three first-round picks would get it done, that’s one of those trades in your fantasy league where you need to run, not walk, and hit ACCEPT before the other person has a Lit “My Own Worst Enemy” moment, realizes what they did, and changes their mind.
Deshaun’s 2020 stat line should tell you all you need to know about his BAMF-frequently-approaching-Elite-QB status:
4,823 passing yards (1st in the NFL...yes, more than Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers)
33 passing touchdowns (tied for 7th in the NFL)
112.4 passer rating (better than Mahomes, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Josh Allen)
Also, fun fact about Deshaun’s career passer rating: he is one of only four quarterbacks that have a career passer rating of over 100. Here, see for yourself:
And if ESPN’s QBR is more your thing — which, I don’t know why it would be, but everyone has a different favorite Halloween candy too, right? — Deshaun still checks in for the 2020 season at 12th overall.
We could go on. You get the idea. If highlights are more your speed, Watson has them aplenty, although I suspect most of you all watch enough ball that you already knew that. Either way, roll ‘em!
*coughs loudly* Oh yeah, that’s the good stuff.
Where some, or maybe even most fans would probably go full Tony Soprano is the draft picks we’d have to ship to Houston to make this work. Maybe it’s three first-rounders, maybe it’s three firsts and a Day Two pick or a couple, but let’s just refer to the Jeremy Fowler story that says three firsts gets you a seat at the table, in a Rounders sort of way.
It sounds insane at first! Here’s the reality of the, um, let’s call it a pickle? that the Patriots have at quarterback at the moment:
- Currently drafting 15th overall in the 2021 draft. That’s higher than they’ve been in ages, no doubt, but also not anywhere near enough to even sniff any of the top-four quarterbacks, barring a precipitous slide by one of ‘em. Unless they were to offer a significant trade package to move up high enough.
- The traditional way to acquire a franchise quarterback is to, well, be an organically bad, top-to-bottom white-girl-wasted train wreck of a team, like the Jaguars and the Jets. The Patriots, while disappointing, still won seven football games and with a few different bounces could’ve probably won a couple more. They will almost certainly not be organically terrible enough to be picking top-5 next season, and after that is anyone’s guess.
- Sorry if this is an obvious one, but, quarterbacks that are even a fraction above replacement-level, 99 times out of 100, never even sniff the open market, for that exact reason that they’re at least somewhat better than the Brian Hoyers of the world. So that option’s out, and certainly not a long-term solution when we’re talking Ryan Fitzpatricks and whatnot.
Where the three first-round picks starts sounding somewhat less exorbitant is considering what other teams have coughed up just to roll the dice on quarterbacks in the draft — it always sounds crazy at the time, but especially lately, if you think you’ve nailed The Guy in your evaluations, do you think any of these teams have regrets about it now?
Let’s start with some easy recent ones:
Patrick Mahomes: in what will surely go down as an entirely one-sided trade, just not maybe the way we thought on draft night, the Chiefs traded their 2017 first-round pick, a 2017 third-round pick, and crucially, a 2018 first-round pick to jump up to the Bills’ spot at 10th overall.
Josh Allen: Just to jump up from their own draft spot at 12th to take Josh Allen at 7th overall, the Bills shipped two second-round picks (53 and 56) to the Bucs. And it was also reported at the time that the Bills had a trade with the Broncos ready to roll that would’ve let Buffalo pick 5th overall (for Allen, obviously), and while that didn’t end up actually happening, it’s certainly worth wondering if the Broncos would’ve extracted a 1st from the Bills to jump up that high. It doesn’t seem out of the question!
Deshaun Watson: to move up from 25th to 12th and draft Deshaun Watson in the first place, the Texans ended up shipping a 2018 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns.
Carson Wentz: this is a trickier one that involves a whole slew of high-value picks, some players, and conveniently fits my ax to grind here that premium picks are simply the cost of doing business when you need The Guy to sling the rock.
First trade: Eagles and Dolphins
- Eagles receive: 2016 No. 8 overall pick
- Dolphins receive: 2016 No. 13 overall pick, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso
Second trade: Eagles and Browns
- Eagles receive: 2016 No. 2 overall pick
- Browns receive: 2016 No. 8 overall pick, 2016 third-round pick, 2016 fourth-round pick, 2017 first-round pick, 2018 second-round pick
We could keep going. The Rams sent two first-rounders, two second-rounders, and two third-rounders to the Titans to snag Jared Goff at No. 1 overall. The RGIII trade is legendary for both the haul it took to get him and how poorly the Washington Football Team does, well, most things. You get the idea.
With the quarterback being absolutely the most important, valuable, and vital position in American sports, all those teams calculated that the risk/reward was worth it and even if it cost them multiple first-rounders over a couple seasons, the payoff for a potential top-10 quarterback that can transform your whole team for a decade, that’s worth it. And that’s just to draft a guy.
Watson, on the other hand, to get back to our Patriots hypothetical, is the literal definition of a proven commodity. He’s succeeded, and in fact, had a career-best season (on the stat sheet, anyway) on one of the objective worst teams in football. He appears to be basically system-proof, as he appeared to pick up the NFL game almost immediately as a rookie before getting hurt in practice and never really looked back. Quite the contrary; while his 2019 numbers were roughly similar to his 2018 campaign, give or take a couple hundred yards, his 2020 numbers — which, again, were post-Deandre-Hopkins-trade and in the midst of a turbulent, awful season for the team — absolutely barbecued any and all of his career stats in every department.
Still think that kind of certified BAMF at quarterback isn’t worth a few first-round picks to acquire?
Three firsts to get a 25-year-old quarterback that’s already one of the best in the sport and could realistically be the answer for the next decade, and has given us every reason to believe he can be that freakin’ good no matter what the system, who the coach is, or who’s around him.
The Patriots’ current situation is an indefinite slog through the no-man’s land of not being good enough to compete, and not truly bad enough to draft the next Deshaun.
You gotta at least make the Texans say “Nah, we’re good, keep your picks, thanks for asking though”.