Deshaun Watson: ‘No idea’ why Bears didn’t talk to me before draft
Seconds after sitting down Wednesday, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was asked the same question Chicago has wondered about for almost four years.
Seconds after sitting down Wednesday, Deshaun Watson was asked the same question Chicago has wondered about for almost four years: Why weren’t the Bears more interested in talking to him before the 2017 draft?
“I have no idea,” the Texans quarterback said. “I was just going with the flow in the process. That’s pretty much it, honestly. I don’t even know, honestly.
“I wish I had more answers to that, but I don’t.”
The answer is the difference between Bears general manager Ryan Pace making a mistake and committing malpractice.
In spring 2017, the Bears liked North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s accuracy and were concerned Watson presented an injury risk. They researched Watson but never gave him the sit-down steakhouse treatment afforded Trubisky, who booked his reservation under “James McMahon.” Watson didn’t even get a lengthy interview.
Watson Tweeted in May the Bears “NEVER ONCE talked to me” during the lead-up to the draft. Pressed Wednesday, Watson said he didn’t recall whether he spoke to the Bears, who sent Pace, then-coach John Fox, player personnel director Josh Lucas and offensive coaches to his pro day at Clemson.
“All 32 teams were at the pro day, so it was like a blur, honestly,” Watson said.
He said he didn’t remember “too much interaction” with the Bears. Maybe, he conceded, he chatted with them briefly at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“But nothing too crazy,” he said.
If that drives him now Watson wouldn’t say. But a smile might have given him away.
“It’s no motivation — it’s what the organization went with,” he said, cracking a quick grin. “I have no ties, nothing against the Chicago Bears or the organization. I mean, of course the media is going to make stories and . . . the fans are of course going to say something about it.
“For me, personally, there’s no motivation [against the Bears]. Nothing like that. They did what they did. . . . They thought that was the best situation for themselves at that time.”
It has haunted the Bears, and Pace, ever since. Rather than draft Watson or Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, the rifle-armed son of a baseball player, Pace traded up to draft Trubisky second overall.
The Chiefs took Mahomes 10th and the Texans got Watson at No. 12. Mahomes is the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP. Watson has the third-greatest passer rating in the history of the sport. His 103.2 career mark trails only Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
This past offseason, Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million contract, while Watson signed a four-year, $156 million deal. Trubisky had his fifth-year option declined by the Bears, and will play for someone else next year.
Trubisky will face Watson for the first time Sunday, but lived through similar criticism when Mahomes visited Soldier Field last year. That Bears loss featured Mahomes counting to 10 — his draft position — in front of national television cameras.
“When you really understand everything, that storyline is never going to leave for any of those guys,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “Just like it doesn’t for any of those quarterback classes you run into. Usually they’re all compared. No matter what for all three of those guys, they’re going to have that with them forever.”
The Chiefs, for whom Nagy worked as offensive coordinator in 2017, saw Watson as a winner — the Tigers were 14-1 in each of his last two years — who was able to move the sticks with his arms and feet. Like the Bears, though, they drafted someone else — with a much better result.
“In regard to that class, we all know that Mitchell and Patrick and Deshaun were all right there,” Nagy said.
“I think when you go back and you look at a lot of different people, everybody had their own opinions. In regard to Deshaun, he’s having a good career and I think he’s a competitor and definitely presents a lot of problems to opposing defenses.”
Even J.J. Watt — perhaps the NFL’s most famous player — understands the appeal of second-guessing quarterback drafts.
“I think the fascination with that class, the assumption would be how it all has played out, obviously, with Patrick Mahomes having won an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP already so early in his career, but not being the first guy drafted, and how it’s all shaken out from that standpoint,” Watt said. “And moves that were made. I think any time there’s so many parts to picking guys and seeing how it plays out.
“Obviously the quarterback position in the National Football League is the most-watched and talked-about position by far. So there’s plenty of intrigue swirling around that, no question. I’m happy and fortunate with the guy we got here.”
Even in a brutal season — the Texans fired GM/coach Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start, and half their victories since have come against the lowly Jaguars — Watson continues to burn the Bears. His presence alone makes the Texans a premium destination when recruiting a new GM and coach this offseason. If the Bears are in the market for one, or both, they can’t compete with the excellence of Watson. This year, he trails only Mahomes in passing yards, and only Mahomes and Rodgers in passer rating.
“He’s a magician, you know?” Texans interim head coach Romeo Crennel said. “When I look at it, I’m glad I don’t have to defend him. I’m glad he’s on my team.
“But he gets out of some things where you just have to have that uncanny knack and feel for where the rush is and what the rush is going to do. And he can feel it. He knows when to move out the side of the pocket. He knows when to go out of the rear of the pocket. He knows when to pull it down and go straight ahead. That all makes him a pretty tough character.”
Off the field, though, he’s steady.
“In the hallway, he’s even-keeled,” Crennel said. “In the meeting room, he’s even-keeled. And I think that’s the way he is at home. I don’t know. I don’t live with him. But I bet you at home he’s the same way.”
Even if it might drive him deep down, taking a midweek shot at the Bears would be out of character.
“For me, it was no motivation,” Watson said. “I have respect, and got all the respect for those players and coaches and ownership of the Chicago Bears.”