LANCE ZIERLEIN'S Z REPORT

It's too early for O'Brien and Watson's struggles to create panic

Deshaun Watson will get better. At least he should. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I’ve had two days to talk on the radio, answer texts, and sift through tweets about the Texans loss to the Patriots in week 1. Texans fans definitely aren’t happy, and with good reason. The Patriots are now 10-1 lifetime against the Texans averaging 32.5 to the Texans 19 in those games. Ass-Kickings, Incorporated.

Yes, it was “SOT” (same old Texans) once again. Yes, once again Bill O’Brien failed to handle his business when an important game management situation presented itself. You don’t care about the team if these things didn’t bother you on Sunday and didn’t leak over into Monday.

But some of what I’m hearing? Wow! Just hit YouTube for some old school hip-hop and search “EPMD” and “Chill” and you’ll get to where you need to go because, baby, this sports life might not be for you based on some of the rhetoric and analysis I’m hearing.

Watson never got comfortable

Look Deshaun Watson just had an off game. It happens. We know O’Brien didn’t have a good game, but his quarterback didn’t either. He struggled to get through reads and find his targets with the same quickness that we saw at times last year.  He also got caught throwing from off-platform angles (basically means he’s off-balance and feet weren’t set) which caused throws to drop short of their target.

Watson was also hesitant to make his decisions on where he wanted to go with the football. This isn’t a huge surprise given the fact that he was making just his seventh start in the NFL and playing in just his eighth game. No quarterback is a finished product in their seventh start. None. And when you have to face a Bill Belichick-coached team with the entire season to prepare for you? Forget it.

I had someone tweet to me that Bill O’Brien needed to do a better job of calling plays to get receivers open. The job of the receiver is to get open. Pass plays are designed to create stress on defensive backs with their route combinations, but it’s still the receiver’s job to get open the same way it is Watson’s job ot make reads and throws. It’s O’Briens job to call the best plays for the personnel on the field and for where the Texans advantages are.

R-E-L-A-X

Here are the facts:

  • Deshuan Watson was playing his first game in 8 months.

  • Deshaun Watson had limited reps in the preseason and looked rusty.

  • Deshaun Watson was making just his seventh career start.

  • Will Fuller, the defensive field stretcher and big play talent was hurt (again).

  • O’Brien and Watson combined to average over 34 points per start in 2018.

  • O’Brien and Watson combined for 21 total touchdowns last season.

Being pissed at O’Brien for the game management issues and the inconsistent performances of this team are completely understandable. Pretending that game one of 2018 matters more than the previous seven games that O’Brien and Watson had together is just nonsensical. ESPN analyst and former Pittsburgh Steeler safety Ryan Clark said the Texans shouldn’t do what Bill O’Brien tells them. He seemed to intimate that Watson’s off game was on O’Brien. Guys…. It’s one game.

Can we let Deshaun keep growing? Can we at least get to get two or three? This may not turn into a winning season and O’Brien might get show the door sooner rather than later, but Watson had a bad game and it’s going to get better.

It better.

 

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The Texans should swing for the fences. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With each passing day, the Deshaun drama thickens. It's progressed to Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeting, basically humbling himself to Deshaun.

A city that a few short weeks ago offered up mega star power across the board, has now seen James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and George Springer all depart for a variety of reasons. The impact of Deshaun leaving would be irreversible guaranteeing the Texans resting comfortably in the bottom of the AFC South for the next decade, wallowing in futility.

The saga will only intensify in two weeks should Patrick Mahomes collect another Lombard Trophy. As 2017 draft class contemporaries, Deshaun is comparing his career to #15. Another ring would place Mahomes up 2-0 in that discussion with Watson.

Perhaps the Texans should take a play from the Oilers playbook and inquire on Dabo Swinney. In the pursuit of securing the services of Warren Moon, the Oilers made a power play and secured the services of Moon's former CFL coach, Hugh Campbell. I've attended several luncheons and engagements in which Deshaun served as the keynote speaker. In many of those venues, a short video presentation would include personal greetings and feel good overtures directed to Deshaun from Dabo. The end result was Deshaun lighting up like a Christmas tree. There's a viable relationship in place there.

At the end of the day, Deshaun is a competitor. Losing DeAndre Hopkins was a major loss, but not to the degree that you might think. Deshaun still went out and threw for over 4,000 yards this season, and with a sub-par supporting cast, even pulling guys off of the practice squad in late December contests to fill out the receiving corps. The issue for Watson is trust, and culture. Hence, the recent headlines surrounding the Jets as a future home make very little sense. The Jets in 4 of their last 5 seasons have had double-digit losing seasons. Until the recent resurgence of the Browns, the Jets far and away have held the title of the "laughingstock" of the NFL.

The biggest challenge for the Texans is who could persuade Deshaun to stay? Could team President Jamey Rootes calm down the noise? It certainly won't come from Texans Ring of Honor recipient Andre Johnson. If I were Cal McNair, I would place a call to 105 Sikes Hall in Clemson, SC and ask for Dabo's office. That's as good of a place to start as any other.

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