Deshaun Watson to the Patriots?
The idea seemed farfetched at the time. Laughable in hindsight. Yet there was a brief stretch earlier this year, shortly after Tom Brady’s free agency decision, when speculation linked Watson to New England, with at least one sportsbook even installing the Clemson product as the favorite to become the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2021.
That, of course, was before Watson signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension with the Texans that’ll keep him in Houston through the 2025 season. And before the Texans fired Bill O’Brien, whose questionable work as Houston’s head coach and general manager previously created skepticism about Watson’s long-term future with the organization that drafted him 12th overall in 2017.
Still, the conversation was compelling. Because while probably unrealistic, the hypothetical scenario — in which Watson joined Bill Belichick in Foxboro to extend New England’s dynasty — was too juicy to ignore.
So, why are we mentioning this now? Well, because Watson, one of the NFL’s premier signal-callers, turned in an excellent performance Sunday as the Texans defeated the Patriots 27-20 at NRG Stadium, all but crushing New England’s playoff aspirations for the 2020 season.
The 25-year-old completed 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, good for a 121.9 passer rating and 86.2 Total QBR. He added 36 yards and a TD on the ground, showcasing impressive improvisational skills.
“He’s very good. Yeah, he’s very good (at improvising),” Belichick told reporters Sunday during a postgame video conference. “He’s a big, strong kid, hard to tackle, gets outside the pocket, creates some space out there. And the lines are very long. They just kind of get in the way and Watson makes things work out.
“He’s got good pocket presence, and he’s a really good quarterback, and he had a really good day today. All the yards they gained weren’t in the passing game, either. It was him running or him throwing. It was the entire offense. He did a good job with it, obviously.”
We might never know whether the Patriots planned to pursue Watson, either via trade or via free agency following the 2021 campaign, because the Texans, in a rare stroke of organizational competence, did the logical thing and locked up the QB before he asked out and/or explored the open market.
But it sure would’ve been a tantalizing possibility for the Patriots had the opportunity presented itself, even though the draft remains the most effective avenue to acquiring a franchise quarterback.
Watson, as we were reminded Sunday, is an elite talent who has the potential to make everyone around him better. The Texans’ 3-7 record is by no means an indictment on him. Nor is Houston’s offensive inconsistency for much of this season.
The future of the quarterback position in New England is cloudy, with Cam Newton currently operating on a one-year contract, with mixed results, and Jarrett Stidham seemingly falling out of favor after a few brief, lackluster auditions. Watson thus represents the ultimate “what if?”
Again, not necessarily because a marriage seemed plausible. But because the alternate universe with Watson quarterbacking the Patriots — explored in talk radio chatter back in March and April — sure beats New England’s current reality, which involves a daunting quest for answers.