We don’t use the word ‘shambles’ around here too often, but you’d have to think that that’s what the Houston Texans are in right now.
After a decade as the face of the Texans, superstar defensive end J.J. Watt got his wish and has been released by the floundering franchise, as he announced in a two-minute video posted to Twitter on Friday morning.
Watt’s request came after a very rocky year for Houston during which they traded a top three wideout for scraps and canned their head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien. Even in the midst of last season, the cracks between the 31-year-old Watt and the Texans were starting to form.
“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,” Watt said in November. “But you also can’t … I’m not looking to rebuild. I’m looking to go after a championship, and that’s what I want to do.”
They also wasted an MVP-caliber season from Deshaun Watson with a 4-12 record in 2020, which has led to trade demands from Watson’s camp over the past few weeks, though the team has said they have no intention of giving in to that demand. Clearly they thought that Watt’s demand was much more acceptable than Watson’s.
“I have sat down with the McNair family and I have asked them for my release and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time,” Watt said in the Twitter video. “I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who’d never really been to Texas before. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me—besides draft night—I mean, you guys booed me on draft night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you’re my family.”
Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Watt was still prolific last season, ranking as the 15th-best pass rusher by pass-rush win rate, as measured by ESPN Stats & Information. The veteran amassed five quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown during the 2020 campaign.
Watt has made it clear that what he wants at this stage of his career is a Super Bowl ring, so where will he sign? Many believe that he’ll go to PIttsburgh to join his brothers Derek and T.J. on the Steelers, an idea that gained even more traction after T.J. responded to J.J.’s Twitter video with a GIF of The Rock making the ‘bring it on’ gesture.
While it’s a fun idea that many people are floating, it’s nearly impossible. J.J. would have to take an inconceivable pay cut to play in Pittsburgh, and they’re not even in the Super Bowl 56 conversation, sitting as long shots with +2800 early NFL odds (888sport) to win it all next year.
Some more interesting options could be the defending champion Buccaneers (+800 odds to win the Super Bowl), the Green Bay Packers (+900), who fell short in the NFC Championship Game for the third time in five years this season, and the Los Angeles Rams (+1200), who could create a truly unblockable defensive line alongside Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd.
There have only been three players to ever win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award a trio of times, and if the Rams were to sign Watt, they would have two of the three. Donald has won three of the last four awards, beating out Watt’s brother T.J. for the award in a tight race in 2020.
Watt hasn’t won the award since 2015, but he remains one of the best d-lineman in the game today despite all of the trials and tribulations he’s been through. The former Badger won the DPOY award in three of four years starting from 2012-2015, but it’s been a tough road since then.
In 2016 Watt played just three games and underwent back surgery, in 2017 he managed just five games and fractured his leg, and in 2019 he suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle after just eight games.
The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native has had an illustrious career nonetheless, amassing five Pro Bowl nods, five First-Team All-Pro selections, a Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2017, and a pair of 20-sack seasons to go with his Texans franchise records in sacks (101.0), forced fumbles (25), and recovered fumbles (16).
No doubt Watt and the Texans have had a unique run together, and despite his frustrations with the current state of the franchise, he recognizes the massive effect the city of Houston and state of Texas have had on him.
“You guys have given me everything and more and I can only hope that you feel like I’ve given you everything I have,” Watt said. “The City of Houston has been unbelievable to me. It’s where I met my wife, it’s where I’ve met lifelong friends and my teammates. I’ve had incredible coaches, and training staff, and equipment staff, and cafeteria workers, and the weight room staff, and the front office people. People on the streets, people in restaurants and grocery stores, and showing up at my house. The connection was special, and I will never take that for granted because I know how rare it is.”