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Smith: Texans must finalize divorce from Deshaun Watson ASAP

Published on: 02/16/2022

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These are the early days, when it is easy to talk big and promise change. But Lovie Smith is now 2-for-2 discussing the necessary next steps to improve the Texans\u2019 future. Smith got it right last week during his introductory press conference at NRG Stadium, acknowledging that a rebuilding franchise must reconnect with frustrated fans at the same time it starts to change its image on the field. \u201cI have seen a day when it\u2019s tough playing inside NRG Stadium, and it\u2019s our responsibility to get the fans back and get them excited about the product we\u2019re going to put on the football field,\u201d Smith said. \u201cI guarantee you we can do that.\u201d The biggest step in moving the Texans \u2014 the football team and the franchise \u2014 forward in 2022? Finally moving on from Deshaun Watson, who last played a game for Houston\u2019s NFL squad on Jan. 3, 2021, and is set to be paid $35 million next season. From January 2021 through the end of another four-win campaign last season, the Texans either weakly passed on the Watson question, intentionally spoke in vague generalities, or slightly left NRG\u2019s front door open for a potential Watson return. Remember when former head coach David Culley kept insisting over and over that Watson was still the Texans\u2019 quarterback? \u201cHe\u2019s the quarterback of the Houston Texans. That\u2019s all that I was concerned about, and that\u2019s all I knew,\u201d Culley said during his introductory press conference after reports of Watson\u2019s frustration with the team already had been leaked. \u201cWhatever has been said about what was, what he wanted to do or he didn\u2019t want to do, all I knew is this: Having been in this business this long, he is a Houston Texan, and I want him to be a Houston Texan.\u201d Serious off-the-field accusations against Watson eventually changed the Texans\u2019 he\u2019s-still-on-our-side stance. But think back to general manager Nick Caserio\u2019s initial comments about Watson\u2019s status during the start of training camp, when he was allowed to practice with the team and was even used on defense. The Texans deflected, deflected and deflected. Watson was only separated from the Texans \u2014 working out on his own on a side field; inactive and unseen on game days \u2014 when the organization finally realized he was a daily distraction for the team and anyone trying to buy into the inexperienced Culley as HC. \u201cOn the Deshaun situation, I know there will probably be a lot of questions about that,\u201d Caserio said last July on the first day of training camp. \u201cHe reported for training camp the other day. I know the league put out a statement and made some comments about where they are in that process. Again, from our perspective, it\u2019s a day-to-day endeavor. You know, we are going to take the information, and we are going to process that, and we are respectful of everybody that\u2019s involved. We\u2019ll take it one day at a time and ultimately do what we feel is best for the Houston Texans.\u201d Seven long months later, the win-now Los Angeles Rams have won the latest Super Bowl, Joe Burrow almost won the big game, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray disappointed in the playoffs, nine NFL teams have new head coaches, and Watson is still listed on the Texans\u2019 official roster (No. 4, QB, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, 26, Clemson). Smith is months away from coaching his first light practice with the new Texans. But his real NFL experience was on display again during a recent interview with Sports Illustrated. He sounded like the Texans\u2019 owner, CEO, GM and president. He said what needed to be said about Watson\u2019s status and what, for some unknown reason, the Texans have been reluctant to publicly commit to. \u201cAs soon as possible. I\u2019m not running away from the question, but as soon as possible,\u201d Smith told SI, discussing a resolution to Watson\u2019s standing with the Texans. \u201cThere are things that need to be taken care of before the football part comes into play. We\u2019re patient, we\u2019ve waited an entire year, and I just feel like this offseason, it\u2019ll come to an end, and we\u2019ll get it solved, and it\u2019ll be good for both parties, whatever that might be. There\u2019s no other answer to give right now except for that one, and we\u2019re going to try to get it resolved as soon as we possibly can.\u201d As soon as possible. Finally. Tampa Bay, which just lost the best QB in NFL history, was linked with Watson\u2019s football future after Tom Brady retired. Minnesota was recently tossed into the rumor mix by ESPN. Watson still holds football power because of the no-trade clause the Texans gave him when he agreed to a franchise-record four-year, $156 million contract extension in 2020. The Texans\u2019 roster is still in full makeover mode. A franchise that badly needs a new start and clear path forward can ignite its rebuild by trading Watson for a stack of lofty future draft picks. Caserio has waited and waited. The Texans have oddly remained tied to Watson despite more than a year passing since his side leaked that he never wanted to play for the team again. Trade him at the start of the new league year in mid-March? Trade him just before the first round of the draft in late April? Smith deserves a true clean slate, not another round of Watson drama and another set of questions about a QB who doesn\u2019t play with the team. Move on, Texans, as soon as possible. Listen to the advice of the new HC you just promoted. [email protected] twitter.com\/chronbriansmith

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