A CASE FOR DESHAUN

Here's how the NFL could finally give Watson his props for carrying a bad team

Imagine what Houston's record would be without Watson. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

When votes are counted for NFL's Most Valuable Player for 2020, it will come down to Aaron Rodgers of the 13-3 Green Bay Packers, Patrick Mahomes of the 14-2 Kansas City Chiefs and maybe Josh Allen of the 13-3 Buffalo Bills.

But except for the NFL history books, where does it say that the MVP has to play for a winning team? Because nobody was more indispensable to his team in 2020 than Deshaun Watson of our disappointing and frustrating, though strangely AFC South defending champs, Houston Texans, who finished their season Sunday with a disastrous 4-12 mark.

MVP from a 4-12 team? Hey, things can always get worse. Without Watson, it's possibly, probably likely, the Texans would have been 0-2020. While the team stumbled and bumbled, firing its coach and general manager and popular media director, promoted a shifty butt smoocher to executive vice-president, lost games on last-minute goal line fumbles, had its all-time star player publicly accuse his teammates of quitting, had a game delayed by lightning (surely a sign from above), losing its best receiver in a trade that made the Great Train Robbery look like an ATM withdrawal, and barely a running game or offensive line … Watson was nothing short of breathtaking.

Watson passed for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He completed 70 percent of his throws to butterfinger receivers. His quarterback rating is the stuff of Canton. He was the undisputed, durable team leader, playing all 16 games, often hobbling to the final gun. It's not easy to be spectacular and steady at the same time, but that was Watson in 2020, even when teammates, though by black magic, pulled defeat from the jaws of certain victory.

He wasn't just the face of the Houston Texans this year, he was their entire body of work.

Would the Texans have been more successful with Rodgers or Mahomes at quarterback? Hard to say. But just once wouldn't you love to watch Watson armed with the Packers and Chiefs' array of speed burner All-Pro receivers?

Forget the Texans' dismal record, the player who meant most to his team in 2020 was Deshaun Watson. "Meant most" … isn't that the same as most valuable? By every earthly standard, except those pesky ol' wins and losses, Watson was the NFL's most outstanding player in 2020, a thrill-a-minute, one-man, 3-ring circus.

But like Bruce Hornsby said, it's just the way it is - no NFL MVP has ever come from a team with a losing record. So count Watson out. However …

Two times, the league's Defensive Player of Year came from losing teams: Dick Butkus from the 1-13 Chicago Bears in1969, and Cortez Kennedy from the 2-14 Seattle Seahawks in 1992. How great was Butkus? He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for both the 1960s and 1970.

Here's one that would never happen today. In 1961, Paul Hornung won the Heisman Trophy despite his Notre Dame Fightin' Irish finishing 2-8. Of course, Hornung led the Irish in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff returns, punt returns and punting that year. Presumably there were 10 other players on the field that year for Notre Dame. Hornung was named NFL league MVP a few years later for the Packers.

Only twice in NBA history has the MVP played for a losing team. They were Bob Pettit for the 33-39 St. Louis Hawks in 1955-56, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the 40-42 L.A. Lakers in 1975-76.

Baseball has been more open to recognizing greatness in the agony of defeat. Four players have won the MVP while toiling for losing teams: Ernie Banks with the Cubs, Cal Ripken for the Orioles, Mike Trout for the Angels and Andre Dawson with the Cubs. Trout did it most recently in 2016 and 2019. Banks did it twice, back-to-back in 1958-59. Dawson was the only one in history to be named MVP while playing for a cellar-dweller, the 1987 Cubs.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome