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What Could Have Been: Deshaun Watson vs. Trevor Lawrence

The great battle that could have been “one for the ages.”

Syndication: Greenville RICHARD SHIRO/Contributor

It seems like a lifetime ago when Deshaun Watson was the greatest thing to happen to the Houston Texans. The former Clemson Tiger turned NFL all pro was the answer to Houston’s quarterback questions that had lingered for over 15 years.

Watson was beloved by the community, pouring into everyone from the Texans cafeteria staff, to kids at the local YMCA and back again. He was compared to Michael Jordan on the field and painted as the city’s great new role model off it.

The future of the battle red faithful was bright, sunny and full of promise.

Jack Easterby joins the Houston Texans

On a fateful day in early 2019, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly entered a massage parlor and engaged in illegal prostitution. Rumors swirled linking Kraft to the disgusting underbelly of NFL sex trafficking, before it was all mysteriously swept under the rug.

The fact that the city of Houston is widely regarded as a sex trafficking hub is heartbreaking all in itself. And, hosting a Super Bowl here didn’t help that fact.

What does this have to do with the Texans and Watson you ask?

It was at this point that former Patriot staffer, a character coach, named Jack Easterby quit the Patriots, allegedly attempting to distance himself from what he reportedly perceived as highly immoral behavior from the Patriots owner.

Definitely not hard to blame him. Who wouldn’t quit a job if they believed their boss aided in sex trafficking?

Easterby’s ties to then Houston head coach Bill O’Brien paid dividends as the Texans quietly hired Easterby as their new character coach—after Easterby hired an agent, a seemingly unprecedented move for a character coach.

It’s been well documented how Easterby seized that opportunity to work his way into one of the most powerful roles someone can have inside a multi-million dollar operation known as an NFL franchise.

The fall out has also been well documented.

Once again, the question arises, what does this have to do with Deshaun Watson?

Once Easterby managed to stage his coup that saw friend O’Brien cast off, with no one left between himself and floundering Texans CEO Cal McNair, this became Easterby’s team.

And, like clockwork, Deshaun Watson went from savior of the Texans to a waking nightmare of the franchise quarterback demanding a trade.

Soon thereafter, Watson found himself in the crosshairs of one of Houston’s most infamous high profile attorneys, who just happens to live a few doors down from Cal McNair, although any connection seems to have been swept away. And, the resulting civil suits and criminal charges against Watson are eerily similar to aforementioned Robert Kraft allegations.

But, unlike Kraft, a multi-billionaire who can mold reality to suit his will, Watson’s alleged indiscretions are hung out like dirty laundry for all to see. If Watson and Kraft are both guilty, the end result for each man appears to be quite different - even though justice would deem both spend a very, very long time inside a prison cell. If both are innocent, Kraft has managed to move on, teflon suit intact, while Watson may never recover.

Now we know how we got from there to here.

Watson v Lawrence: Lightning Strikes Twice At Clemson University

Founded in 1889, Clemson University has never, ever had back-to-back NFL starting caliber quarterbacks in its 132–year existence.

That is, until 2014 when Watson took over.

During his time with the Tigers, Watson shattered every meaningful passing record in school history, throwing for 10,163 yards and 90 career touchdowns. And, he led the Tigers to their second National Championship, dethroning the seemingly unstoppable Alabama Crimson Tide. Watson is also the first quarterback in FBS history to surpass 37 hours of academic credit and throw for 35+ touchdowns in one year. Oh, and he did all that while giving back to the local community in Clemson, South Carolina.

Trevor Lawrence, who is also doing great work in the community, is #2 on Clemson’s all-time greatest quarterbacks list. In his years under center for the great Dabo Swinney, Lawrence threw for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns. He also won a national championship for Clemson, their third all–time, and second in three seasons.

Now, Watson is currently a Houston Texan and Lawrence a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both heavily embattled teams, struggling to right their respective ships, working with new regimes, fighting through seemingly unending challenges (many self–inflicted) and striving to hoist another banner as AFC South Champions.

Both teams have never had a quarterback the caliber of their current Clemson prodigies. NFL fans have never seen a quarterback battle the likes of Watson v. Lawrence. Unfortunately, we’ll likely all have to wait to find out which former National Champion can prevail.

There’s still a glimmer of hope that new Texans general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley can somehow convince Watson to start week one.

Common sense would say put Watson in bubble wrap and wait until another team meets Houston’s trade demands for the 25–year old top 5 passer. But, in the end, Caserio has stated more than once the ultimate goal is to keep Watson in battle red.

With Caserio’s ties to the Kraft family, surely he has some knowledge of the events that led to Robert’s exoneration. And, if they believe Watson is innocent, maybe he could use that to Watson’s advantage. It’s not like the McNair family doesn’t also have deep pockets, there’s only so much money you can spend on Minecraft, after all. If they don’t believe Watson is innocent, then they likely would have dumped him by now.

Not having to keep searching for the quarterback of the future would certainly fix a lot of things for the Texans quickly.

And, in doing so, the spectacle of Trevor Lawrence battling against the player his former coach referred to as the Michal Jordan of football would be a landmark game in NFL history.

Both quarterbacks throwing against less–than–stellar opposing secondaries, potentially putting up well over a 1,000 yards and 10+ touchdowns in a quarterback shootout like nothing the AFC South has ever seen.

What a game it could be!

Sadly, this is very unlikely to happen. Instead, it will probably go down as yet another key moment of heartbreak for Houston sports fans... and another step in the soul-rending train wreck of the 2021 Houston Texans.