In a disaster of a season like the Texans are having, it’s all about the subplots.
Jalen Hurts, the prodigal son, returns home for the first time. How many more losses before the Texans realize Davis Mills isn’t the answer? How many more losses to secure the NFL’s worst record and the shot to draft one of the top college quarterbacks in this spring’s NFL Draft?
But no subplot is bigger in Houston – and for that matter the NFL – than this week when much-maligned quarterback Deshaun Watson makes both his return to Houston and debut with the Cleveland Browns in Week 12 of the NFL season.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Years ago, while doing some advance coverage for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, an NFL executive told me that nobody knows how to put on a show better than the NFL. He wasn’t lying.
But this time, the NFL should be ashamed of the show it’s putting on Sunday. If we thought Blaxsploitation was a thing of the past, think again.
Prior to this week, the last time we heard anything from the NFL concerning Watson, it was commissioner Roger Goodell sentencing Watson to a rather unusual 11-game suspension for behavior against women which he called ‘egregious” and “predatory.”
Goodell’s words spoke to the souls of people who find it easy to a Black man as a predator. The league’s boss was wrong in his description of Watson when there was no criminal punishment to support them.
For those who may need a quick refresher, Watson was accused of sexual conduct with over a dozen massage therapists, most of whom encountered him in Houston. Two grand juries declined to indict Watson on any of the criminal charges and Watson denied the allegations. He eventually reached undisclosed out of civil court settlements with 23 of his 24 accusers.
Independent disciplinary officer and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson handed down a six-game suspension because she couldn’t find a precedent for more since Watson’s actions were deemed to be nonviolent. Goodell, however, shows how much of a waste of time that layer is when he stepped in and overturned his appointed officer’s punishment and leveled his own against Watson.
Goodell fined Watson $5 million and suspended him for exactly 11 games. Use all your fingers and a toe if you need to do this math.
No matter what side of the Watson fence you stand on, Goodell has insulted all our intelligence while lining the deep pockets of the NFL with this one. Are we really supposed to believe it’s a coincidence that a never-heard-of-before 11-game suspension happens to end the week that Watson’s new team comes into NRG Stadium?
Let’s take it a bit further, asking ourselves if Goodell really believed that Watson’s behavior was “egregious” and “predatory” against women in the Houston community why wouldn’t common decency say have Watson’s season debut be any other week and any other place than NRG Stadium? Damn!
Yet, Sunday two struggling franchises will play in a packed house where seats have gone for premium for the first time this season and will be watched under the glare of national television. This game is not about the Browns vs Texans.
It’s about the three-time Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson and the controversy that engulfs his return to the football field and the ability of the NFL to exploit it all.
If you remove the emotions and followed the facts of many of these allegations, there is more than enough reasonable doubt that Watson’s actions were predatory or egregious.
Reckless and immature? For sure.
Those of us who understand what can happen to a Black man when he is considered a threat can’t help but frown at the timing coincidence between these allegations brought by controversial Houston attorney and Texans owner Cal McNair’s River Oaks neighbor Tony Buzbee and Watson’s demand for a trade from the Texans before the ink was dry on his contract extension way back in January 2021. Watson’s demands threatened how things are done in the NFL.
Watson really changed the game when he was finally able to force a trade to Cleveland this past summer and then sign an unheard-of-five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract with all that was surrounding him.
It’s been nearly two years since Watson took a snap in a regular-season game, having sat out the entire 2021 season with the Texans. What’s one more game?
After clearing all of the hurdles, Watson was reinstated to play this week. But it would be nice to see Watson and the Browns make the decision to delay his return to the playing field one more week.
How would that be for an NFL Show?
Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris