All-World NFL defensive lineman J.J. Watt made national headlines twice last week. The second time he did it happened when he got his 100th career sack, coming against Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton.
The fact it took Watt this long to get his elusive centennial sack speaks to the other reason he made the newswire: The sad state of the Houston Texans’ roster, thanks in nearly every aspect to recently launched-into-space former head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien’s gross mismanagement of the draft, free agency, and trade markets.
Funny thing is, Watt still got there quick enough to make the NFL’s Top 5 fastest to hit 100:
Fewest games to 100 career sacks in NFL history:— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 9, 2020
Reggie White (96)
DeMarcus Ware (113)
Bruce Smith (115)
J.J. Watt (120) pic.twitter.com/tboEXMgqyB
If it weren’t for his recent spate of injuries and O’Brien’s notion that the entire Houston pass rush should exist inside a #99 jersey, Watt would have hit the 100 Club a season or two ago. If the fanbase feels that frustration of watching Watt’s opportunities slip away, how much more does the man himself feel it? Jason La Canfora reported recently that Watt feels it to the degree that he’s playing his last season as a Houston Texan.
Watt, who turns 32 in March, has endured significant pain and injury to continue his career to this point and was among the players and coaches thoroughly worn-out by the tension-filled Bill O-Brien era (the coach/general manager was fired last month). His recent remarks about not wanting to endure “a rebuild,” were sincere and, according to several sources who have spoken to him, if anything were soft.
“It’s a wrap,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “He knows he only has so many games left and he is ready to go and try to win. The guys in that locker room are bracing for it.”
A lot of this came from Watt’s own admission that he’s not interested in sticking around Houston for a long-term roster overhaul, quite simply because he knows his playing days are numbered and the sunset is coming soon on his illustrious career.
.@JJWatt: “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..But I’m not looking to rebuild. I’m looking to go after a championship and that’s what I want to do.” pic.twitter.com/s8hQ1NoSrC— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) November 4, 2020
Adding to Watt’s words are these nuggets from multiple NFL general managers:
Several general managers who explored significant trade talks with the Texans came away convinced that a trade is inevitable. Owner Cal McNair has been hopeful of keeping the star around, but the team badly needs draft capital – lacking a first and second-round pick in 2021 – it has been well known in league circles for weeks that Watt would prefer to be elsewhere and hiring a new coach and GM is very unlikely to change that.
“He’ll be traded by March, bank on it,” said one NFL general manager. “That’s a hard trade to make in the middle of the season and there are going to be questions about the medicals. Jack (acting GM Jack Easterby) can’t make that trade in November. And the owner probably wasn’t quite ready to make it, but it’s coming.”
So, the question really is: can a new general manager and head coach convince J.J. Watt to stick around H-Town? And, more acutely, would they want to keep him?
According to OverTheCap.com if Watt is still on the Texans’ books with his current contract as of June 1st, he’ll cost the team a whopping $17.5 million in the final year of his deal. However, with the right amount of optimism, the financially-set-for-life Watt could quite likely entertain a more team-friendly contract extension, especially if it meant bringing in other players to help him hoist a Lombardi Trophy. While shelling out that sort of cash for a pre-injury Watt, partnered with at least one more Pro Bowl caliber defensive lineman like, say, Jadeveon Clowney, would be a no-brainer, doing so with the current Pop Warner-esque defensive lineup and a lack of playmakers in the front seven might not make a lot of sense on paper to the incoming regime.
To counter that point, it might be easy to turn this roster around with a few key moves, a better scheme. and a little luck. Bringing in one solid edge rusher who commands attention would take the ever-present triple team off Watt. Bringing in a pair of defensive backs who can force coverage sacks could give Watt another split second or two to get to the quarterback. In a game of inches and milliseconds, that might be all Watt needs to regain his previous status. Houston’s defense has a lot of young players and one of the league’s best young safeties in Justin Reid. With a small handful of tweaks, Watt could conceivably get that elusive championship for the City of Houston.
Now, a lot of stars would have to align for that to work out, starting with the savvy and intellect of the incoming general manager, followed by the cleverness and vision of the next head coach. One thing that almost always dooms head coaches is trying to forcing players to fit your scheme instead of scheming to put your players in the best position to capitalize on their greatest strengths. There’s a reason some of Deshaun Watson’s greatest NFL highlights have come on busted plays. Either way, Watt himself still believes in this team:
J.J. Watt (after getting his 100th sack)
I’ve said leading up to the 100th - the media always asks questions, and I’ve always said - no personal achievement is ever more important than a team achievement. So, to get it on a day when we got a win as a team means a lot to me. Football’s the ultimate team game. Nobody does anything by themselves in football. That’s why it’s so special. That’s what makes this game so great is that it takes so many guys pulling together in the same direction to make something great happen. A hundred sacks is great, but that’s a whole bunch of teammates, coaches, coverages, d-lineman, linebackers, that’s a whole bunch of people, training staff, cafeteria staff, a whole lot of people helping me make that happen. So, while I may get a lot of media attention today for this, just know that it’s because of you, it’s because of everybody who helped make it happen. It’s never just about one person, so I want to say thank you. I appreciate it.
What do you think? Is the current roster a complete gut job/ Is rebuilding inevitable? Or are the odds good that a new GM/HC combo can turn the #BillO’BrienFails video into a hit film with a handful of smart moves?
Will the Texans be able to complete in 2021?
This poll is closed
Take the poll and then give us your explanation why in the comments. Let’s give J.J. Watt a reason to believe again.