- ESPN staff writer
- Previously a college football reporter for CBSSports.com
- University of Florida graduate
The potential — inevitable? — Deshaun Watson breakup with the Houston Texans is running its natural course, with four stages cleared and more coming:
Stage 1: Watson’s unhappiness over ownership decisions goes public.
Stage 2: Watson doesn’t return phone calls from the Texans.
Stage 3: An Adam Schefter tweet reminds us that, yes, this is real.
Stage 4: Watson and his marketing agent like an Instagram account showcasing a New York Daily News cover saying the New York Jets must do “WATever it Takes” to get Watson in a trade.
Not everyone around the league is convinced the Texans will trade Watson. But we know how these things usually go. And we know the next stages:
Stage 5: Houston will “listen” to offers, but isn’t actively trading Watson.
Stage 6: OK, so now they are initiating trade talks.
Stage 7: Teams that really want him try to downplay his importance by pumping up the quarterbacks they already have, but don’t like as much.
This is the NFL’s circle of life, and short of new GM Nick Caserio going full John Cusack with the boombox outside of Watson’s window, a trade feels very possible. This is wild to say about a top-five quarterback in his prime. Which is also why the Texans can, will and should try everything possible to reconcile this.
But Watson clearly is frustrated by the Texans’ business dealings, and he’s showing the power he wields without saying a word.
Embattled executive Jack Easterby, a former chaplain and character coach, is fighting for his job, influencing decision-making at the top and rankling a faction of the locker room with a disingenuous mix of faith and football, according to investigative work by Sports Illustrated.
Owner Cal McNair said he would involve Watson in the process of hiring a general manager and head coach, but swiftly hired Caserio, with whom Easterby has a relationship from his days in New England. This usurped Watson’s desire for a culture change, and a source close to Watson told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that firing Easterby would not resolve the issue, saying that “Cal McNair would have to fire Cal McNair.”
This is a massive story that deserves treatment from all angles, setting the stage for perhaps the biggest blockbuster deal since the Minnesota Vikings traded away eight draft picks, including three first-round selections, five veteran players and more to acquire Herschel Walker in 1989.
After several talks with NFL personnel, here’s what to expect from the Watson saga, the teams people in the league are talking about as best fits, and why it could take an unprecedented haul to get the 25-year-old out of Houston.
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