There are certain athletes that transcend the very sport that put them on the map. Men and women who outshine the stage they first walked onto as they ascend to the ranks of household names. People like Babe Ruth, Joe Namath, Venus and Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt, Wayne Gretzky, and so many more. These people are often the right combination of high-level talent and a knack to work harder than everyone around them while exhibiting strong character traits that make them natural leaders.
I present for your consideration Justin James Watt. Like those mentioned above, the oldest Watt brother has talent in spades, a physique that’s textbook perfect for an NFL defensive lineman, an imposing, square-cut jaw that screams “Captain America”, a legendary work ethic, and a knack for living out his character in all facets of his life.
When J.J. Watt speaks, people listen. Case in point, the fundraiser to help those Houstonians adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey.
J.J. Watt and his foundation have... helped rebuild more than 1,183 homes in the Houston area. More than 971 childcare centers and after school programs have also been rebuilt and recovered with the money, which have helped more than 108,000 kids, and over 239 million meals have been distributed to victims of the hurricane.
If the great City of Houston had a Mount Rushmore, Watt would be on it. Maybe more than once. So, when you’re a struggling head coach, with a variety of detractors and a wake of questionable decisions laying right at your feet, getting on the wrong side of Watt is so far from a prudent decision it actually calls into question the self-control and intelligence of the person doing so.
Enter Bill O’Brien.
The incident, which also included defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, took place in the week leading up to the winless Texans’ Week 3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to ESPN and multiple reports.
Sources confirmed to ESPN that “a verbal blowup at practice” occurred two weeks ago, with one source telling ESPN’s Dianna Russini that the incident was when O’Brien “lost the team.”
As we’ve detailed time and again here on this wee little blog, good leadership is not about being the boss; it’s about leading people to a common goal. Yelling at your All-World player who transcends the very game you play is pretty much the exact opposite of that. While “official word” is tight-lipped about the altercation, rumors abound that Watt called out O’Brien for bad coaching, bad in-game decisions, and other things. With newly minted defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver getting involved, presumably to calm the situation down. With so much fire and angst around the Bill O’Brien era and its flaming end, Watt did show some tremendous optimism for the future under interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
[Romeo Crennel] is a great man. He has rings. He has a positive air about him. He has a jolly nature to him. You can’t help but smile being around RAC. It should be fun.
One of the incessant knocks on Bill O’Brien’s coaching system was how overwhelmingly and unnecessarily complex it was. While having a ton of wrinkles in your offensive scheme opens up limitless possibilities, it also brings confusion and often needless mental challenges for players trying to remember a seemingly infinite number of play call variations, passing trees, blocking schemes, and such. Further proof of that can be seen in the minefield of ex-Texans wide receivers who had great NCAA careers only to flame out under Bill O’Brien. Guys like Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey, Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong and Demaryius Thomas, just to name a few.
Thankfully, Crennel brings a far more focused, simplified approach that’s served him well in his 40+ years of coaching.
Watt (on Crennel’s coaching style):
One of the things that Romeo, obviously being who he is and being the coach that he is, he’s extremely high on fundamentals and everybody doing their job and everybody focusing on building a strong foundation from the ground up. That starts with little things like footwork, hand placement, hat placement, where are your eyes, all that type of stuff. It’s just little things. It doesn’t need to be crazy complex. It doesn’t need to be, I don’t think that he has – he just wants you to do the little things right. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and beautiful. He just wants it to be done right. That’s what we’re doing. It’s a bit of simplification just to do your job and do it right and do it well.
Getting back to basics, refocusing on your mission, and working the fundamentals IS a great leadership technique. Seeing that Crennel fits this to a “T” is a breath of fresh air. With that comes a reset of sorts for the players and fanbase. Better still, a renewed optimism.
Crennel (on salvaging the rest of 2020):
I think that we have ability (to make a playoff run). And if the ability and the coaching can put it all together, I think we can start winning. And once you start winning, I think attitudes change, outlooks change, guys play better and then only time will tell where you can go.
One of the few great things about being at the bottom is the only way out is up. Today’s a new day, J.J. Watt, Champion of Houston, has once again slain a dragon for the people, and there is much rejoicing.
We have a fresh start and had a good practice today. We’re looking forward to Jacksonville.
Now, if only Watt could only find a time machine to take him back to the Astros World Series and erase the scandal before it happened, he might just be the most revered man to live in this part of the world since Sam Houston himself.