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Hair of the Dog (Special J.J. Watt Injury Edition): Broken Glass, Empty Bottles, and Blood

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Don’t talk to me. Leave me alone.

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Why.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. Note: This post was written before Adam Schefter reported that J.J. Watt underwent a second back surgery on Thursday and is expected to miss the rest of the 2016 season.

With the news coming down that J.J. Watt was done for all of, if not the bulk of, the season with a re-injury to his back, we’ve all seen our own mortality. Many of you left your families to wander the streets. Some of you traded up from recreational to hard drugs, and I’m sure at least a portion of the nation’s suicides over the last couple of days are in direct relation to this national tragedy. Especially troubling is the fact that the rest of this season’s consumption of J.J. Watt will be via him having conversations over the fence with that H.E.B. guy who lurks at the edge of forests wearing a clown costume.

So let’s get the BRB staff’s snap reactions to this most horrible of stories:

Brett:

At this point I don't really care as much about the 2016 season as I do about Watt's career. I sincerely hope that we have not already seen the best from him due to this injury.

kdentify:

Sadly, I have to agree with Brett. The best thing, IMO, now is for the Texans to shut him down for the season, allow him to rest and recover, and come back for next season. Losing him for this season hurts, but it's better to lose a season to injury than to lose him permanently because he's not forced to take time to adequately recover.

Mike Bullock:

When I was little, I loved watching NFL films on Saturdays. One episode that always stuck with me was on Dick Butkus, specifically how he was never himself after a horrible knee injury late in his career. Opposing players started cheapshotting him, trying to get revenge for all the times Butkus had clowned them earlier in his career.

I can't help but think of that now and pray J.J. doesn't have the same thing happen to him when he comes back.

Man, this sucks...

Vega (yes, Vega):

Everything sucks.

Not to be a fear monger, but let's just say what everyone's thinking. If this is "just" a season-ending injury, I'll breathe a sigh of relief, but backs are no joke. This screams of him coming back too early and paying the price for it, in which case I would place significant blame on BOB's shoulders. Part of what we love about J.J. is his all-out attitude, but that's exactly the attitude that means he can't be fully trusted to make his own call on when to come back from injury. Everyone expressed that concern when it was announced that Watt would be back in Week 1, and now look where we are. It "feels" like nobody had the balls to step in and tell him that he was going to miss some time up front. I just hope like hell that this isn't something permanent now.

Yes, I know that's a kittenload of speculation on my part, but given the extremely limited facts out there, it's far from unreasonable.

Luke Beggs:

For all the finger wagging we do towards the front office and BOB for allowing this to happen (rightly so, to a certain degree), should we also not question J.J.'s judgement in not taking matters into his own hands and saying, ''Something's not right here, I should probably sit this out.”? I distrust NFL teams doctors as much as the next person when it comes to looking after players’ long-term health, but if something was as bad as it now appears to be, then why didn't J.J. take it upon himself to raise the issue further and consider taking more time off to recover?

BFmf’nD:

The Texans replaced the best player in football today with a replacement level scrub. Let's see if anybody notices!

Coming into the season, the Texans were already woefully thin at DE. Now? We're looking to Christian Covington, Joel Heath, or Devon Still to pick up the slack. It's not just that we've lost Watt; the cascade effects of this injury are painful.

We've already seen Jadeveon Clowney kick to 3-4 DE in base packages, and this will almost certainly be the case moving forward. This means our base 3-4 will likely look like Covington-Wilfork-Clowney along the line and Mercilus-McKinney-Bullough/Cushing-Simon at LB. Clearly, losing Watt is a tremendous blow to our team not only at getting to the QB, but that's not a strong group against the run, either.

In sub-packages, we'll likely see a combination of Clowney, McKinney, Mercilus, Simon, Wilfork, and profit? When Cushing returns, he'll slot back in, but suddenly this group is much smaller. One big problem I see is more snaps for Vince Wilfork. In 2015, his play was consistently poor when he received more than 50% of snaps. Last week, he got 72%.

Ultimately, this unit goes from well above average to average or slightly above. Nobody I've listed aside from Watt demands double or triple teams like Watt drew, so either blockers will have an easier go or more receivers are running routes. Neither option is good.

As a fan of the Texans, this one really hurts.

UprootedTexan:

In a large sense, it's kind of pointless to play the blame game because it doesn't go anywhere ultimately.

That said, and of course I'll play the blame game, J.J.'s new injury or the re-aggravation of his old injury is squarely on the coaching staff.

He came back too fast, far faster than anyone expected given the severity of his last injury. So to think that he was legitimately at 100% going into the start of this season was lunacy.

With that being the case, that means there are two scenarios at play here:

A) Either the coaching staff rushed him out and streamlined his return because they needed him, because even a 75% J.J. Watt is better than most players in the league.

or

B) J.J. rushed himself back and the coaching staff didn't get in his way.

If it's the former, it's shortsightedness, and really reckless shortsightedness at that. Because now we know it's not only possibly a season-ending injury, but that it could make him worse in the long run. And all this for, what, three early season games at roughly 56.6 snaps per game? That's no way to run a railroad, and it's a sure way to run a still-ailing defensive player into the ground. If it's the latter, and J.J. Watt didn't want to miss time, then the onus is on the coaching staff to tell him "you're not ready" or "we're going to wait until you're 100% just to be sure." If this is the case, it's an abdication of the coaches' responsibilities for doing, as BOB is so fond of saying, what's best for the team.

As much as I'd like to think that the coaches have learned from this debacle - if they see even a glimmer of hope that he could be back, even at 50%, because hey, even a 50% J.J. Watt is better than 60% of most players in the league, or whatever the hell, they'll plug him in because we can't have nice things.

But hey, that Kansas City game was pretty great, wasn't it?

And I've been looking for an excuse to drink more when I go to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Texans play, so now I have that going for me.

THANKS, COACHES! GREAT JOB!

BattleRedCoat:

This week has been miserable.

I was absolutely devastated after the Patriots loss. This is just piling on top of it. However, I'm not about to play a blame game.

Was J.J. rushed back by the coaches?

Was he rushed back by his own determination and desire to play?

Was he was actually ready to play and this is just bad luck?

Or was it just 95% better and it was impossible to tell it wasn't 100%?

Certainly all plausible. From a physical sense, J.J. looked like J.J. against the Chiefs. He was wrecking as normal, and to me it looked like he was 100%. It didn't look like he'd been rushed back from an injury. In fact, it didn't look like he was injured at all. It looked like he was pain free, had full strength, balance was great, no lack of coordination; it was basically everything you're looking for after a back injury. So how do you tell a player of his caliber that despite him feeling great that he can't go out there? You can't.

I thought it was a terrible decision to put him out there Week 1. After Week 2, I had no concerns; in fact, it looked like a great decision. Anyone trying to say they thought J.J. was injured still after that game against the Chiefs can't be telling the whole truth. We will never know exactly what moment re-injured his back. Was it in the Chiefs game? Practice? The Patriots game? In the end, it doesn't really matter.

What I'm trying to remember is that this is not the end of the world. They practiced all offseason without him. Clowney, Mercilus and Simon have produced a ton of pressure between themselves. Wilfork is having a great year. Whilst Covington may not be experienced, he flashed some last year on his limited snaps; this is his chance and I bet he'll be willing to grab it. This defense has lost its best player, but the rest of them are good in their own right.

The Texans don't do things easy. This is just another one of those hurdles we've managed to overcome in the past two seasons. I still believe.

Capt. Ron:

I'd like to be in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri. It takes light 4.37 years to travel the distance from Earth to that neighboring system. That means that roughly sometime around the end of May of this year, had I been near Alpha Centauri and peering through a powerful enough telescope directed toward Earth, I could watch J.J. Watt intercept Andy Dalton and return it for a touchdown in the Texans' inaugural playoff game. (I know the roof was closed, but work with me here.) I might even notice the powerful vibration as that stadium in Houston rocked louder than any single moment in the history of football. That moment is irreplaceable. I want to live it again, even just one more time, and then turn off the telescope and explore some other new adventure far away from the NFL.

I don't want to see what happens next, because that means I would have to eventually endure the disastrous 2013 season with the graveyard spiral of Matt Schaub, and the collapse of Gary Kubiak on the sidelines, and to see this franchise go 2-14 as the single best player in the league racks up brutal mileage on his body as he grinds away on defense to no avail. I don't want to see Houston use the first overall pick in the draft on a so-called "generational player" whose multiple injuries would keep him from reaching lofty expectations for (at least) the next two to three seasons, if ever. I refuse to see Andre Johnson wearing the uniform of other AFC South teams. I don't want to see Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet cycle through the wheelhouse of an anemic offense. And finally, I don't want to hear the news of the eventual day when J.J. Watt's body surrenders to the physical forces placed against him with extreme prejudice as he attempted the impossible: to carry this franchise on his back into a championship.

No. I refuse. I want to live in a singularity somewhere out among the stars where that one fantastic moment had 71,725 people on their feet screaming and gazing with joyful tears at the amazement of one Justin James Watt. It represents the peak of the existence of the Houston Texans. Sadly, it may remain the peak for quite some time.

Tim:

There’s no way around it. The Houston Texans lost their best player, probably for the rest of the 2016 season. I also happen to think the NFL lost its single best player, but I admit I’m biased.

It was fair to question whether it was a good idea for J.J. Watt to be in the lineup Week One less than two months removed from back surgery and after missing all of training camp. It was also fair to question the wisdom of the team playing Watt for 88% of the defensive snaps in that regular season opener.

Then the Chiefs game happened, and J.J. looked much more like J.J., and the Texans won, and the doubters quieted down. What I never considered, and in retrospect it’s tremendously disappointing that it didn’t even cross my mind, was how dangerous it could be asking Watt to play on three days rest against the Patriots. If ever there was a game to put the governor on him, that was it.

All that said...who knows? We likely won’t ever find out exactly when he was injured, or whether the injury was due to unnecessary or premature stress on his surgically repaired body. It may well have simply been a bad beat that could have happened to anyone at anytime. We can argue about it with the benefit of hindsight all we want. It doesn’t change reality.

As much as I hate the idea of not getting the privilege of watching J.J. do what J.J. does, I still think the Texans have a good defense. It probably won’t be the top three unit it could have been with Watt, but there’s plenty of talent left. I expect the defense to remain stout, as long as Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus don’t get hurt. Yes, I realize the potential absurdity of that statement.

More importantly, I expect the offense to improve as Brock Osweiler gets more comfortable and the parts around him continue to gel. I still believe the Texans will win the AFC South. Where Watt’s absence really stings is the postseason. With J.J., I thought a playoff win was possible, maybe even probable, and after that, we’d see what happened. Without Watt, looking at the AFC right now, I’d lean toward another loss in the wild card round being how this season ends.

But you know what? There are still thirteen regular season games left, and the story hasn’t been written yet. Buckle in. No J.J. doesn’t mean no prayer.

I think that’s enough. Pour yourself a bucket of whiskey, chew some glass, and feel free to express your disdain for the universe in the comments below.