PHILADELPHIA – Deshaun Watson got slapped in the face. Twice.
Earlier in the day, Watson said he felt he should be the first quarterback taken Thursday night in the NFL draft and would take it personally if he wasn’t.
“It’s like a slap in the face, to be honest,” Watson told ESPN. “You see all the things I’ve accomplished, it’s a long list, and they want to talk about the little negatives I have and bring somebody else up? It’s a little disrespectful.”
Well, not only was North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky selected before him (No. 2 to the Chicago Bears), but Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes (No. 10 to the Kansas City Chiefs) was also drafted ahead of Watson, whom the Texans plucked with the No. 12 overall pick after swinging a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Houston had to give up next year's first-round pick to make the leap.
When asked about the comments, Watson backtracked.
“Congratulations to them,” he told reporters Thursday night in a press conference. “Best of luck. I wish them well. Both those guys are my boys, so that’s all I have to say about that.”
Pressed further, Watson stressed that he was pleased with the way everything worked out.
“Regardless of the situation, I was always going to be motivated,” Watson said. “I’m going to be happy to be in any situation that comes. I was going to leave it in God’s hands and this is what he wanted me to do.”
The Texans were a playoff team without Watson. They went 9-7 and won the AFC South.
That was with the below-average play in the passing game, with Brock Osweiler limping in his sole season in Houston, and Tom Savage playing well in spots, but never winning the job outright. Osweiler was later shipped to the Browns in an offseason deal.
If Watson can eventually blossom into the franchise quarterback the Texans envisioned him being when they swapped first-round selections with Cleveland and gave up next year’s first-round pick, then they can become championship contenders.
To be sure, it’s a huge if, and it will require the Texans to keep their young core of talented players on offense and defense and to continue to develop them.
In a press conference in Houston Thursday night, both coach Bill O’Brien and general manager Rick Smith said that Savage would be the team’s starting quarterback in 2017, so Houston sends a message that it is comfortable with the window to win being open for at least a couple of seasons.
This should give Watson time to adapt and learn the intricacies of quarterback play in the NFL.
“They’re getting a guy who is coming to work, knows his role, and is learning from Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden,” Watson said. “Don’t say anything, keep my mouth shut, and keep working. Whenever my name is called, my opportunity is called, I’m just going to take advantage of it. I can’t wait to get to Houston and call it my new city.”