When Deshaun Watson was entering the NFL, the negative narrative was thick. He didn’t have the arm strength to compete against NFL secondaries. The Clemson offense didn’t translate to the next level. His decision-making was streaky at best. He was an interception machine looking for a defense to play pitch and catch with…and on and on.
Let’s take a look at what DW4 did to prove the naysayers wrong. In just seven games, Watson completed 126 of 209 passes for a 61.8 completion percentage. He racked up 1,699 yards through the air (at 8.3 yards per attempt and 242.7 per game), scored 19 touchdowns, and tossed 8 picks. Oh, and Watson ran for 269 yards, adding two more touchdowns with his legs. He ended his injury-shortened rookie campaign with a 103.0 QB rating. Pretty good for a weak-armed, college “system-guy” who makes bad decisions while handing out interceptions like candy on Halloween, right?
Let’s extrapolate that across a full season. If Watson wasn’t cheap-shotted by the Seattle defensive line, an uncalled illegal hit that paved the way for his season-ending injury, he would have thrown for 3,883 yards, scored 48 touchdowns between the air and ground, and rushed for 615 yards. He would have been a lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year and a legitimate candidate for MVP of the league.
Now, it’s easy to chalk some of that up to lack of game film for opposing defensive coordinators to game plan with when preparing to face the Houston Texans. But it’s also easy to assume with a better offensive line Watson’s numbers would have been even more impressive. And with a defense that can get the ball back to give Watson more opportunities, it’s easy to imagine Deshaun Watson might become the best quarterback in the league when he fully matures.
With guys like George Blanda, Dan Pastorini, Warren Moon, and Steve McNair filling the biggest role in H-Town football prior to the Texans’ existence, and Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates being the most memorable (in a positive way) signal-callers since the Texans came to town, it’s certainly conceivable that Deshaun Watson has the highest upside of any quarterback in Houston history.
While we can’t put Watson in the Hall of Fame yet, or legitimately compare him to guys like Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Joe Montana and Dan Marino, we can compare stats – although the pass happy league of 2018 is certainly slanted to provide modern quarterbacks with bigger numbers.
In his first NFL season, Johnny Unitas had a 55.6 completion percentage and threw for 1,498 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
Bart Starr didn’t win the starting role in Green Bay until his fourth season, where he completed 52.2% of his passes on the way to 6 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and 972 yards.
Joe Montana’s first full season saw him finish with 1,795 yards, a 64.5% completion rating, 15 TDs, 9 picks, and an 87.8 QB rating.
Dan Marino, who a lot of folks credit with the biggest rookie QB season ever simply for what he did for the Dolphins that season, only started 9 games in his first year. In that span, he threw for 2,210 yards, 20 touchdowns, 6 picks, a 58.4 completion percentage, and a 96.0 rating.
In the context of those greats, Deshaun Watson is lighting the NFL on fire.
To place Watson against more contemporary greatness, Tom Brady started 14 games in his first full season. Over those 14 games, Brady completed 264 of 413 attempts for a 63.9 completion percentage. He threw 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a rating of 86.5.
A rating of 103.0 looks pretty incredible when compared to a list of arguably the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
What do you think 2018 has in store for Deshaun Watson? Will he live up to the hype or reveal the pre-draft doubters were right all along?