With the NFL’s annual in-season trade deadline fast approaching, rumors are swirling that your Houston Texans are having a fire sale with anyone and everyone not named Deshaun Watson on the block. Yes, even generational talent J.J. Watt. Arguably the greatest Houston Texan to ever live.
Jason La Canfora:
[Houston’s] defense is an abject failure and if they’re going to give up 600 yards with Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt, they might as well find out what life is like without them and with some draft picks. Because Bill O’Brien blew this thing up on the way out, the cupboard is bare, Deshaun Watson doesn’t have a fighting chance with this group and the results are beyond troubling. The David Johnson-De’Andre Hopkins trade looks more surreal by the day (yeah, that happened).
While giving up on Whitney Mercilus may not be the worst idea ever, letting the guy who single-handedly lit a fire under the fanbase in the Texans’ first ever playoff victory against the Cincinnati Bengals, then rebuilt 1,183 homes for Houston families after Hurricane Harvey, and then could have been the final domino to fall that led to former coach/GM Bill O’Brien’s exit from Kirby a few weeks back definitely is.
Not only does owner Cal McNair and the Texans organization owe a lot to J.J. Watt, the City of Houston does as well. Lest anyone forget, J.J. Watt sells tickets, entertains fans, and does J.J. Watt things that bring positive attention to the franchise and the community.
People may have differing opinions on the reasons professional sports exist. At the end of the day it’s a business built around entertaining its fans. Unpacking what that means shows why the Texans fanbase has been so despondent lately. For example, take Bill O’Brien’s power play victory over former general manager Rick Smith. While Smith wasn’t the greatest GM in all the land, he routinely struck pay dirt in the first round of the NFL Draft, bringing players like Duane Brown, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt to Houston. All names that bring excitement and positive distractions for the fanbase.
O’Brien naturally made sure to get rid of Brown, Clowney and Hopkins, but didn’t dare off-shore Watt. He knew better...until he didn’t.
With the blows to the fanbase from disappointing offseasons to embarrassing playoff exits year after year, to watching Jadeveon Clowney get shipped off for two debatable rotational linebackers (with O’Brien also actually paying Clowney to leave.), to the horrifically, mind-numbing trade of DeAndre Hopkins, to the 0-4 start to 2020, there’s only so much a fan base can absorb before it’s no longer entertainment. It becomes pain. 2020 has brought enough of that.
The average American turns to entertainment (movies, TV, sports, exercise, gaming, hunting, etc.) to escape the harsh reality we all face in the daily grind. When actors/actresses, athletes, social media influencers, professional gamers, and such start turning entertainment into a volatile platform off the field, it can rob a portion of the public of a much needed escape. When someone like Bill O’Brien is allowed to run roughshod all over your favorite distraction, it has the same effect.
Guys like J.J. Watt do the opposite. Every Texans fan has a favorite Watt memory. From the pick-six against the Bengals, to his touchdown catch against the Oakland Raiders, Watt has done incredible things on the field that give Texans fans something to hang onto even when life around them isn’t good. Unlike O’Brien’s reign, Watt provides a positive distraction, even when he’s inserting himself into off-the-field endeavors (like Harvey relief).
J.J. embodies everything that’s ever been right about football and pro sports. Shipping him off to the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers or some other destination will simply inflict another deep cut into the flesh of Houston, a fanbase and community that’s endured enough of that over the last few years to last a lifetime.