The 2020 NFL season has concluded and the NY Jets have one of, if not the most wide-open quarterback void to fill this offseason of any team in the league. And to this day, it is far from clear who the Jets’ quarterback will be in 2021.
Will it remain Sam Darnold? Darnold is my guy as those of you who know me already have come to learn this season in my first stint at The Jet Press.
Once they won their first game against the Los Angeles Rams and indirectly lost the No. 1 pick to Jacksonville, I came on here and posed to you a question about what to do moving forward with the presumed No. 2 pick instead of the top bill.
Now that they were out of the Trevor Lawrence running, it would come down to a battle of Darnold vs. either Justin Fields out of Ohio State or to which I warned you Fields was far from a finished product, and maybe keeping Darnold wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Then the Sugar Bowl happened and Justin Fields was beyond brilliant, and even more importantly, “resilient” in beating down a Clemson team who beat him down the previous year in a similar spot.
The same Clemson team with the consensus No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence captaining them who also had a coach nonchalantly call out the Buckeyes.
From there, without a new coach yet, the Jets job looked certain to be Fields’ and I did not blame the Jets one bit for potentially going that route gung-ho 100 percent.
Fields is a project, but if they were to pair him with a terrific quarterback-savvy/offensive-minded coach like a Brian Daboll or even his own Ryan Day from Ohio State, Fields would be in great shape as too would be the Jets moving forward.
Then the Jets hired Robert Saleh, going the complete opposite way they had been going the past couple of seasons with Adam Gase.
And all of a sudden, the tone started to shift away from potentially a rebuilding team that would almost certainly start over at quarterback to a defensively-driven team that a veteran quarterback could fit nicely into.
At the same time, avenues started to open with Deshaun Watson not being happy with the Texans. Zach Wilson out of BYU also started to gain some momentum in his draft stock.
Trevor Lawrence underwent shoulder surgery. The Detroit Lions were heavily shopping Matthew Stafford. And even the Seahawks floated the idea of trading Russell Wilson.
With the exception of Stafford who is now in Los Angeles with the Rams, at this very moment, the board is wide open as to who exactly is going to be the Jets’ quarterback next year.
They can go back to Sam Darnold. They can take Justin Fields or Zach Wilson in the draft. Watson or Wilson could find themselves on the chopping block as full trade chips.
I wouldn’t even put it past Urban Meyer to try and outthink the room and pass on Trevor Lawrence after his lackluster Sugar Bowl showing and shoulder surgery — gifting him to the Jets of course, which would be fantastic for this franchise.
For some strange reason, it just feels to me like Meyer is going to do something crazy with the No. 1 pick.
But regardless, the biggest name on the market right now is Deshaun Watson and the Jets have been rumored to be a team the 25-year-old finds very desirable. He likes Robert Saleh and he’s aching to get out of a very dysfunctional Houston Texans organization.
Now, this is where I might lose a lot of you.
I think the Jets need to be very careful in jumping into a relationship with Deshaun Watson and I’m not particularly feeling him being a Jet.
Here’s my initial stance on Deshaun Watson. The guy is absolutely fantastic. He brings to the table something that only a few quarterbacks in this league are gifted with and that is the ability to make plays out of nothing and always keep his team competitive.
This is the way Aaron Rodgers used to play before he had Matt LaFleur come to Green Bay and resurrect his career, making him more of a cog in the wheel rather than the standout.
This is how Drew Brees used to play with the Saints before they started acquiring some actual talent and began their run of NFC South titles.
They were historically bad, then Brees won them a Super Bowl against Peyton Manning, then they were bad again and Brees racked up garbage-time numbers, now they’re a perennial NFC contender.
This is how Russell Wilson continues to play. From terrible offensive lines to fraudulent defenses, Wilson has consistently been the heartbeat of the Seattle Seahawks pre and post-Legion of Boom.
And without him, Seattle would never have a playoff appearance let alone a Super Bowl title. I’ll come back to Wilson at the end of this article.
Watson clearly fits into the category of these quarterbacks with his ability to create plays out of nothing with mere lawn furniture around him as a supporting cast. The way he orchestrates an offense in a sort of “backyard football’ style of play is to be marveled at.
This year was a prime example. The Texans were one of the worst teams in football, yet Watson remained one of the best quarterbacks and put up some of the most impressive stats.
Yeah yeah yeah — Patrick Mahomes this. Aaron Rodgers that. Josh Allen was great and Tom Brady won the Super Bowl. But look at where Watson stacked up:
- Passing yards? 1st with 4,823.
- Completion percentage? 3rd at 70 percent behind only Rodgers and Drew.
- Passer rating? Second among qualifiers at 112.4 behind only Rodgers.
How Watson wasn’t top two of three in QBR this year is a mystery, but at this point in his career, there is no question the former Clemson standout is a top-five quarterback in the NFL.
So, what’s my problem with him?
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1. Deshaun Watson’s health should be a concern for the NY Jets
The first is probably the weakest argument of the three, but Watson’s health needs to come into serious consideration.
Yes, he’s an elite quarterback, but so was Andrew Luck and we saw how the hits he took thanks to a failure to put a decent offensive line around him affected his future in this league.
To this point, Watson has taken 174 sacks across 54 games — that’s a solid three sacks a game and nearly 50 a season (Watson has played 3.5 seasons technically).
The Texans tied for second-most sacks allowed this year with 50 and continue to lead the league in such a category with no sign of improvement in sight.
Hits pile up, folks. I know football is an increasingly friendly game to quarterbacks and offensive players, but there’s a reason the life expectancy (career-wise) of an NFL running back is around 2.5 years.
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You can only take so many hits and having taken so many at just 25 years of age is alarming, to say the least, for a star quarterback who I’m sure is looking forward to at least 10 more years of service.
Do the Jets really want that? As the future of their franchise? All of that money that comes along with him and you have no idea which hit will be his last?
But maybe that’s not good enough of a reason.
Next: 2. Would it be a lateral move for Watson?
2. Would it be a lateral move for Deshaun Watson?
How about the fact that Watson is decrying a faulty organization that is not running optimally and his eyes are now set on the Jets? I’m not saying anything crazy here, right? The Jets are not one of the model organizations of the NFL.
I was born in 1995. Since then, the Jets have had eight head coaches (and a ninth on the way) with 416 games coached and 183 wins to show for it.
They’re also now on their seventh general manager in Joe Douglas during that timespan and even Douglas finds himself in a less-than-stellar position at 9-23 as GM.
For a top-tier talent that Watson is, is it fair to point out that a move to the Jets from the Texans would be a lateral one at best and a backward one at worst?
Usually, when you get away from poorly-run organizations, you don’t hop immediately to another one. And on top of that, you wouldn’t even be getting a happy Watson.
You’d be getting a lover scorned. He will be going from one down organization to another with a mindset adept to (figurative) chaos.
One bad offensive line to another — which is tied into Watson’s health risks — unless Joe Douglas can rapidly build on Mekhi Becton in this year’s draft. One cache of receivers that need polishing to another.
Watson would be going from one pain in the neck situation to another one, maybe even a worse one. Not to mention the jump from no income tax in Texas to the great state of New Jersey and its — well you get the point.
Next: 3. Personality matters
3. Personality matters
Finally, if neither of those two convinces you Watson is a bad fit for the Jets, how about the fact that he is developing a pickiness to him — a “reputation” as the kids would say? And a kind of ugly one at that, no?
Look, it’s one thing to be great on the field. Playing football, there is nothing to get on Watson about except for the fact that he’s taken a lot of hits.
However, if Carson Wentz taught us anything this year it’s that personality bleeds into how you play the position of quarterback. Why else do you think teams have psychologists who evaluate players before they draft and/or sign them?
Especially with the quarterback position, you need someone who’s going to be a cold-hard killer at the end of the day. Someone who’s rattled by nothing and never shows his hand.
A guy like Carson Wentz has proven how talented he is on the field. He was the frontrunner for MVP the year the Eagles won the Super Bowl before he tore his ACL.
He brought a team of practice squad players to the playoffs last year. But something glitched in his personality and he imploded this season.
Wentz’s vice is that he doesn’t know when to stop. He’s stubborn and his stubbornness (similar to Brett Favre’s) disables him from making the smart play in lieu of making what he believes to be the most impressive play.
That’s why he forces turnovers when he holds the ball too long and doesn’t dump it out of bounds. That’s a big reason why he takes as many hits as he does. Wentz loves to play “Hero Ball” as Ryan Clark at ESPN once put it.
That is why he is on the trading block with his NFL career hanging in the balance.
What’s Watson’s vice? Now I’ll definitely lose you guys.
Next: 4. Conclusion
NY Jets, Deshaun Watson Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
4. Why the NY Jets should be wary of a Deshaun Watson trade
I have no quarrels with him calling out the Texans for the way they’ve gone about managing the team. Trading DeAndre Hopkins was ludicrous. Bill O’Brien blowing their AFC Divisional Game against the Chiefs with that big lead was inexcusable.
And the Texans’ inability to put guys around Watson that not only protected him, but also gave him support to throw to and rely on in the receiving corps is gross mismanagement if I’ve ever seen it.
Watson kept his mouth shut all year long. He put his head down and grinded all season, fighting a losing battle still looking great (individually) in the process.
It wasn’t until the season was over that he voiced his frustrations. Good on him because he was royally screwed by his front office.
But there’s a real ugliness in the world right now, and it is the ugliness of judging someone and/or pushing to give someone an opportunity based on what they are and not who they are or what they’ve accomplished in the past — the “content of their character” some would say.
In regards to Watson’s situation and how he’s handled his disagreements with the Texans (issues that are larger than the game, more specifically), I’ll try to put this as delicately as I can.
When you exclude, you miss out. When you say certain people can’t sit at your lunch table, you lose respect. Watson is the cool kid at the lunch table right now and he’s specifically trying to navigate so that he’s joined by his circle and his circle only.
And upon not getting his way, it becomes a miscarriage of justice. You cannot show your hand when you don’t get your way, especially as a quarterback in the NFL.
It’s burdensome when Wentz hints at wanting to be traded once he got benched and it’s burdensome when Watson blatantly indicates he wants to be traded because Eric Bieniemy or Robert Saleh didn’t get an interview.
That is not how you become someone everybody wants to associate with.
Everybody wants to play with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. Why? Great talents, great teammates, and most of all, lack of controversy. Plain and simple.
Watson used to be on that list, but now he’s garnering a reputation.
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The Jets need to reconsider jumping into a relationship with Watson at this point in his career. He’s great on the field, but the state he is in is not conducive to the consistent winning of football games. He needs time to find himself, not hop into an immediate rebound relationship.
You know who no one could fathomably call a headache and is not vehemently pushing for exclusivity in who surrounds him — who’s also kind of available? Russell Wilson.
And if the Seahawks are careless enough to let him go, I do believe Wilson would love to meet up with a former NFC West rival of his in Robert Saleh and take over a transitioning Jets team, making the Jets instant contenders in the division.
You want a championship, Jets fans? I started watching football in 2003 when I was a kid (I got a bit of a late start).
The only quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl with (at the very least) “whiffs” of controversial personas have been Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger in that timeframe. Three years out of 18.
“Controversy” is attractive on sight, but once you are forced to live with it, it quickly becomes an incurable disease.
Watson is an elite player for the time being, but that doesn’t mean he’s your guy.