In the past few weeks, as I painted an accurate portrait of Benedict Carson, a colleague or reader would offer this challenge:
How is Wentz’s treachery different from Deshaun Watson’s?
A fair and reasonable question. The answer:
It’s not very different at all.
Both signed huge contracts that paid them in advance for expected services. Then, when things went poorly on their four-win teams, both betrayed their cities and teams and sought to force a trade.
There are a few differences, of course.
For one, Wentz wasn’t facing 16 lawsuits alleging sexual assault when he forced the Eagles to make the worst trade in Philadelphia history when they shipped him to the Colts last month. The degree to which this litigation affects Watson’s trade value remains to be seen, especially since no criminal charges have been filed, but, considering the NFL’s craven profile, it likely won’t cost the Texans much more than a sixth-round draft pick.
For another, Wentz hasn’t faced institutional racism … from his own institution.
A final difference: Wentz was the biggest part of the problem in 2020, while Watson was the Texans’ finest performer. Watson was the second-best quarterback in the NFL in 2020. Wentz was the second-worst. So, Watson’s trade value is inestimably greater than Wentz’s. Wentz brought a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second-rounder in 2022. Watson is worth three firsts, minimum.
None of these differences outweigh the main similarities. Wentz is Watson, and Watson is Wentz.
Wentz signed in 2019 for $128 million over four years, almost $40 million of which he took home in 2020 — a season before the extension kicks in. Watson signed in 2020 for $156 million over four years, almost $30 million of which he took home in 2020 — two seasons before the extension kicks in.
Both deals gave the teams a hyper-talent at the position that afforded immediate success and, they assumed, also assured each team stability if a rebuild became necessary. Both teams assumed the quarterbacks would have the minimal integrity to report for the work they’d been paid in advance to do. Both teams were wrong about the integrity of both players.
Both will leave their teams with a massive talent deficit at quarterback. Both abandoned former teammates who supported and defended because each deemed himself and his immediate needs more important than that of his peers — some of whom chose to play for the Eagles or Texans because of their gifted quarterbacks.
Both will leave their teams with significant holes in their salary caps. Wentz will count a record $33.8 million in dead money against 2021′s cap, which, due to the coronavirus pandemic, decreased about 8 percent, to $182.5 million.
Watson will count $21.6 million against the 2021 if he’s traded before June 1, after which he will count $5.4 million in 2021 and $16.2 million in 2022 — significant math, since the cap is expected to rebound to about $200 million. Either way — ouch.
Airing of grievances
Watson reportedly has formally requested a trade, and he has issued a series of tweets cryptically expressing his displeasure.
On Jan. 15, 10 days after the Texans hired a new general manager without his input, Watson tweeted that his displeasure “was on 2 then I took it to 10.”
Four days later he tweeted about needing “patience” — referring to his eagerness to leave Houston, not the patience needed to give his new GM or future coach a chance.
More than a month later Watson — ironically — advised his followers to treasure loyalty.
Was being ignored in the search for the new general manager and the new coach reason enough to force his way out? Reports say that Watson, for some reason, was assured by owner Cal McNair he’d be consulted in choosing his new bosses — like he’s LeBron James.
No. Watson is a union employee working under a collectively bargained agreement that pays him a wage commensurate with his value, his performance, and his potential. He’s not an executive, and he’s not the owner. And miss me with Bob McNair’s “Can’t let the inmates run the prison” comments from four years ago. Bob McNair is dead. Cal’s his son. That whole ”Sins of the Father” ethos never was fair.
If Watson had taken this stance in response to McNair’s bilious sentiments, or after McNair recanted his apology in 2018 (and lied while doing so), fine. He didn’t.
If Watson had taken this stance after former coach and de facto GM Bill O’Brien’s awful trade of Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins last March, fine. He didn’t.
If Watson had taken this stance on Aug. 31, 2019, when O’Brien traded disgruntled headhunter Jadeveon Clowney for (essentially) a third-round pick, then sent two first-round picks and a second-rounder to Miami for the right to overpay left tackle Laremy Tunsil, fine. He didn’t.
Justified outrage … but still
Does Watson have a right to be displeased? Perhaps. He apparently believed the Texans were going to become a latter day Rainbow Coalition as they reconstructed their C-suite. His naïveté was adorable; after all, the Texans weren’t leaving Texas.
A search firm recommended Omar Khan, the Steeler-bred cap whiz who is Honduran and Indian, and TV analyst Louis Riddick, who is black. McNair hired Nic Casario, who is white … and who is eminently qualified. He spent the previous 19 years as a coach, a scout, and player personnel director of the Patriots, with whom he won five Super Bowls.
The hiring of veteran NFL assistant and former Eagles receivers coach David Culley, who is Black, did nothing to alter Watson’s stance. He reportedly preferred another of Andy Reid’s pupils, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who was the hottest name in the offseason, but whom no one hired.
The best reason for Watson’s pursuit of departure lies in the presence of enigmatic Texans executive Jack Easterby, a former chaplain for the Patriots, and whose reported casual racism and whose complete lack of qualifications should make any player wary. But again, Easterby was on staff and had risen to power when Watson signed his contract.
Besides, if you’re going to discount Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s effect on Wentz’s decision, as I‘ve done, then you should discount Easterby, too.
Watson didn’t take this stance until he got his bag, and things went bad.
Just like Benedict Carson.