What Bears can learn from Deshaun Watson’s amazing, but losing, season
Deshaun Watson has proved this year that, as noble as it is to try to create a perfect environment for your quarterback, the superstars can shine even without one.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s former coach and general manager, Bill O’Brien, got fired after four games and was replaced by defensive-minded interim coach Romeo Crennel.
Last week, Will Fuller — the Texans’ No. 1 wide receiver only because of the inexplicable trade of superstar DeAndre Hopkins last offseason — was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. On Friday afternoon, David Johnson, the Texans’ leading rusher, was put on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
Watson’s offensive line is the third-worst in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate. The Texans’ defense allows the third-most yards in the NFL.
And yet, Watson will be fine. He has always been fine.
Watson’s 110.0 passer rating is tied for third in the NFL. His 8.8 yards per attempt leads the league. The Texans’ 4-8 record shows star quarterback play isn’t the end-all, be-all, but Watson has proved a greater point in 2020: As noble as it is to try to create a perfect environment for your quarterback, the great ones can shine even without one.
It’s the others — such as the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky — who need everything to be just so.
The Bears would be wise to remember as much when their general manager and coach — whether it’s Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, or others — go hunting for a quarterback, probably in the draft, this offseason.
Until then, Pace will have to take his medicine Sunday, when Watson plays the Bears for the first time.
As much as it feels like Watson is renting space in the Bears’ heads — Pace, of course, traded up to draft Trubisky instead of the Clemson star in 2017 — he’ll provide a fresh challenge at Soldier Field. The Bears almost never have a front-row seat to a hot young quarterback. Since Pace picked Trubisky second overall, 14 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round. Only three have started a regular-season game against the Bears: Chiefs all-world passer Patrick Mahomes, the Giants’ Daniel Jones and the Jets’ Sam Darnold.
The Bears have yet to play a regular-season game against No. 1 overall picks Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray or Baker Mayfield. Or Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP. Or the Bills’ Josh Allen, Washington’s Dwayne Haskins or anyone drafted this year.
Watson, though, gives them plenty to fret about. The only time Nagy faced him in person, in 2017, the rookie quarterback was coming off a game in which the Texans scored a franchise-high 57 points. Watson merely threw five touchdown passes in a 42-34 loss to Nagy’s Chiefs.
“I’ve understood, from the time he’s been in this league, that he’s a playmaker, and he makes plays with his arm and his legs,” Nagy said. “And that’s hard to stop.”
Watson has 331 rushing yards, the most for any passer the Bears have faced this season except for Jones. Throw out the Panthers’ Teddy Bridgewater, too, and the Bears haven’t faced a quarterback with more than 100 rushing yards.
The Bears’ job, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said, is simple: “To eliminate the things that he does well.” They didn’t do that against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford last week, giving up 460 yards, the most they’ve allowed in regulation in four years. The Bears allowed 20.9 points per game through their first 10 games and 37.5 per game in the last two.
“There’s not one place you can put the blame,” Hicks said. “Everyone’s finger is in the pot.”
It will take everyone to stop Watson, too — regardless of who’s around him.