What a great week for Houston sports. Baylor and Houston play in the semifinals of the Final Four. Good luck to the Bears and Cougars. Also, the Astros began the season with a blowout win Thursday night at Oakland, where they play a four-game series before moving on to the Angels.
Then there’s the ongoing Deshaun Watson saga. More lawsuits were filed against Watson, bringing the total to 21. Eighteen masseuses came to the quarterback’s defense, signing sworn statements that he didn’t behave inappropriately during massage sessions. Stay tuned for more of this daily soap opera.
Meanwhile, the Texans continue to prepare for the draft that starts April 29.
By the way, for those of you whose questions and comments are included this week, I appreciate your contributions. As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don’t forget to check out the Chronicle’s two weekly television shows — “Texas Sports Nation” at 11 p.m. Sundays on KPRC (Channel 2) after “Sports Sunday” and “Texas Sports Nation: In Depth,” which airs two new episodes per month on AT&T SportsNet Southwest, which also reruns it at different times.
And now, this week’s Mailbag.
Q: I believe Nick Caserio was the most qualified GM candidate on the market. He was an architect with Bill Belichick and others for the last three Patriots’ Super Bowl winners (XLIX, LI, LIII). David Culley was not the shiny toy like Eric Bieniemy or Robert Saleh, but I like how he has worked under some great coaches (Andy Reid, Sean McDermott and John Harbaugh) and that some of his assistants have fairly decent résumés, unlike Bill O’Brien’s minions. But the more I think about Caserio, Cal McNair should have hired what the players wanted, and not a yes man. Now we’re at a point where Deshaun Watson wants out, fans are mad and depressed, more than 50 percent of the roster is new, and we’re competing for the first pick in 2022. You said last Friday on Sports Radio 610, “If you’re going to be bad, you might as well be all the way bad.” I think like three to five players will be traded or cut during Labor Day weekend for a mid-late round draft pick. The goal in my mind is to have the most draft picks and cap space in 2022. That would excite the fan base, and unlike the Astros, being bad for one year plus having picks and cap space should help you be more competitive in 2023. Trading Watson will sting since the hardest thing to find in the NFL is a superstar QB, but at least you’ll get draft picks. Speaking of the compensation aspect, I keep hearing Watson’s value is eroding. I think of it like this: if everyone is indoctrinated into thinking each team would offer the exact same package. Caserio would tell them, “Guys, you’re offering me the same stuff. I want a clear cut favorite package for Deshaun.” That would create a bidding war for Watson. That’s the point, right? — James B.
A: James, do you really think teams will get in a bidding war for Watson with 21 lawsuits and an NFL investigation hanging over his head? I don’t, at least not by the draft. Maybe a team or two will make a low-ball offer and be willing to withstand the backlash knowing that at some point, Watson will have this behind him and will be playing great again.
Q: We finally have a potential, more reasonable Watson outcome thanks to the Dolphins’ trades. As you know, I was not a fan of trading Watson before the draft. Just no reason to rush. 2021 is a wasted year. Save some cap space, do some player eval to see what you have, go through the first draft process with the new GM and staff. Just chill. Don’t force anything. Wait till 2022. Will have more cap space, know the team and front office better and have our own probably very high draft picks. Then make a move with Watson. Teams would still be jumping on top of each other. Dolphins had been a natural trade partner. Their moves last week keep them very much alive next year. They will stay with Tua (Tagovailoa). If he performs for them, great, they can continue to add around him. If he doesn’t, they will still have a ton of ammo to go after Deshaun. And they will. So will others. Unless something really bad comes out of the lawsuits, a year from now teams will forget all about it and see his potential. I’ve never been a Dolphins fan but applaud the moves today. And they still give themselves an out with Watson next year. — Kenneth D.
A: Kenneth, five teams are going to take quarterbacks in the first round of the draft. That makes them unlikely to want to trade for Watson. If you wait until the trade deadline in October or for next year’s draft, they won’t have six teams bidding to get him as they would have if not for the lawsuits. And what happens to Watson? Does he sit out as he said he would and lose millions in lost income? Does he report because he needs to be paid and risk an injury if he plays? Ultimately, you may be right about waiting until next year, but it won’t be because of strategy but because they have no alternatives.
Q: Do you think Deshaun Watson’s major reason for requesting a trade was that he thought the allegations would break and if he were out of Houston, the downfall would be lessened? Could Watson opt out under the NFL COVID-19 policy? I am concerned that Watson has botched his near future and the near future of the Texans. I spent 25 years as the leader of a business that employed several hundred people. I had many situations where allegations of sexual misconduct were alleged. In most instances, only one or two people made allegations. In the cases of multiple allegations, I cannot remember one that did not go bad for defending party. Regarding Watson’s request to leave the Texans, do you think he thought the allegations were going to become public and he could escape to another city before they broke? — Bob B.
A: Watson’s trade demand had nothing to do with his lawsuits, Bob. If he were in another city and 21 women filed lawsuits against him, it would have gotten the same attention all over the country. If he didn’t play because of COVID-19, he wouldn’t be paid. I doubt the NFL will even offer opt-outs this year.
Q: I believe Nick Caserio is taking the right position with a ton of one and two year contracts. If the gamble pays they should have a pretty good record this year with 17 games. — Joe I.
A: The Texans hope you’re right, Joe, but I don’t see them having a pretty good record. I see them having a pretty bad record.
Q: Where was the “character” coach during all of this Watson alleged inappropriate behavior? Play acting as a GM? No return on the Easterby hiring. — Mike D.
A: Mike, the Texans didn’t have a character coach last season or ever, for that matter. Easterby wasn’t hired to be a character coach. He did just hire one to work under him. That hasn’t been Easterby’s job since he worked at New England before coming to Houston in April 2019. Considering only Watson and the masseuses knew what was going on, how would Easterby have known that? Players get massages from experts all the time. It’s part of their routine. I’ve just never seen a player get so many massages from so many different masseuses and then have so many file lawsuits against them.
Q: I have never seen anything like the unfolding Houston Texans/Deshaun Watson story. I am thinking there is a book in the making, maybe something to add to John McClain’s career or, more likely, one of the younger Chronicle sports writers. Interest in this story is national and will increase as it progresses.
I suggest a novel like Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men.” Warren captured the rise and downfall of Huey Long in a story about a fictional governor of a state between Texas and Mississippi in the 1930s. Most of what the public knows of Huey Long is based on “All the King’s Men” and the movie of the same name. I think you can capture the Deshaun Watson tragedy best as a fiction. Jack Easterby has been likened to Rasputin which caused me to think back to Nicholas II and downfall of the Romanov dynasty, the most poignant of the past century tragedies. Nicholas II was a well-meaning, weak ruler. He clung to royal privilege while other ruling families made concession to growing democratization. Rasputin, a licentious Siberian holy man and mystic, gained access to the Russian royal family through the Czarina who found Rasputin able to help the hemophiliac Czarovitch (heir to the Romanov throne). Then Rasputin began giving advice to the Czarina to pass on to her husband, Czar Nicholas II. Russian people hated the Czarina (German born like their enemy in the Great War) and distrusted Rasputin. I think of Cal McNair and the NFL Texan organization. It seems McNair retains Jack Easterby because he is a true believer in the Patriot Light system Bill O’Brien sold to (Bob McNair) and probably his son, also. Never mind that the Patriot System, less Bill Belichick, has failed everywhere else it was tried. What undermines the analogy is Nick Caserio, who was hired because of Cal McNair’s fixation on having an organization like the Patriots. Early indications are Caserio is competently managing the Texan team. I particularly like how he is overturning last year’s team which finished last in defense and did not have much offensively outside of Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller. With one- and two-year contracts to veteran players, with emphasis on the needs of his new defensive coordinator, Lovie Smith, Caserio is developing competition and providing incentive to improve. Without football knowledge, I am optimistic we will have a better Texan team than last year’s team even without our star quarterback. To me, Deshaun is immature. No NFL team can trade for Deshaun while his legal and eligibility status are in dispute. With no change in positions, the ugly result is stalemate where everyone loses — Deshaun holds out, does not play, loses pay, and the Texans do not get the draft picks and top players needed to rebuild and start looking for our next franchise quarterback. In your novel, the story can have a better ending. — Tim M.
A: No novel coming from me, Tim. Maybe one of the young writers will write it.
Q: I’m mostly relying on Houston media for the detailed reporting and I see no evidence of COVID protocols in any of these reports. There is no mention of a mask, gloves, disinfectant by either DW4 or the women. Can one of you investigate this and let me know? If none of these suits mention COVID and we are to believe all of these women, then no one involved respected the protocols. That includes DW4. It would seem to me their history of COVID testing players is a factor in this he said/she said affair. The NFL has a brand to protect. That is surely going to take precedent over where DW4 wants to play his next game. Even if he manages to settle with all of the women, that does not exonerate him. Unless you know otherwise, these suits serve as evidence of DW4 repeatedly violating COVID protocols. The NFL simply can’t ignore that. The access to information over this case will give them the power to do so. If not the Texans, I’d like to see him on the Bears but I just don’t see how he can survive in that media environment with this cloud of controversy always hanging over him. If not Houston, what media environment can he now survive in? — Juan B.
A: Juan, you’re the first person to bring this up with me. I haven’t heard anyone else mention it. Nobody but Watson and the masseuses know what happened behind closed doors. Nothing in the lawsuits mentions masks or gloves. I can guarantee you this: There was no social distancing because it would be impossible, right? As for a media environment Watson can survive in, are you kidding me? He’s proven how tough he is mentally and physically, and he’ll can survive anywhere as long as he continues to excel on the field.
Q: We have a GM who is supposed to be something special so he should be able to find a QB. Joe Montana, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner all came from almost nowhere. Now there is the Stanford guy (Davis Mills), Ian Book and other sleepers. I don’t buy that a team has to have an ultra-high pick to find a winner. My little iPad tells me that Denver and Carolina are the only interested teams left for Watson. It will be good to get this fellow out of town so Caserio will just have to make lemonade. The Texans have been losers before and it looks like they will be again and get the first pick. Big deal, Clowney and Mario Williams. Maybe Caserio will be luckier, which is better than being smarter. — Bob B.
A: Who knows, Bob? Maybe Caserio will use a third-round pick on a quarterback he had rated higher. I don’t see that happening, though. Too many other needs.
Q: I haven’t seen TXSN on Channel 2 the last couple of weeks. Did y’all get cancelled? Love your columns! — James L.
A: Yes, James, our show is still on Sunday nights on KPRC after “Sports Sunday.” Thanks for asking.
Q: Your article (Thursday) was positive towards running backs, especially the additions. Problem as I see it, no one is addressing the offensive line. We do not have the ability to block downfield. These guys stand straight up and do not go forward 3 yards like offensive lines are supposed to do. Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard are great pass blockers, but both have forgotten anything about blocking down. — Stephen G.
A: Stephen, I addressed the offensive line in that column, including new additions, two potential new starters and the new coach in James Campen. Caserio hasn’t ignored the line or the backfield because he knows an improved running game is a priority for the coaches.