Opinion: J.J. Watt is leaving Houston because Texans made staying unthinkable

Mike Freeman

There are many reasons why the Houston Texans have recently been one of the great cosmic examples of putridity.

It's the way the former coach, Bill O'Brien, made inexplicable trades. Like dumping DeAndre Hopkins for a bag of peanuts and Jadeveon Clowney for a bag of candy corn. Or blowing a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the divisional round. Or their shameful treatment of Deshaun Watson. Or the firing of one of the smartest PR people in the league, Amy Palcic, the first woman to hold full public relations duties in the history of the NFL.

It's the history of awful Texans ownership with Bob McNair calling players "inmates." Or it's the fact a graduate of the Clown Academy of Red Nose Floppy Shoes College having an influential position in the organization.

The list goes on. It's like something from a dystopian NFL future.

But out of all the disgraces, J.J. Watt departing is one of the biggest.

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The NFL is brutal and other historic players didn't finish their careers with the team where they became stars. Joe Montana went to Kansas City after the 49ers. Jerry Rice left. John Unitas departed Baltimore for San Diego. Emmitt Smith finished his career in Arizona. So a 31-year-old Watt ending his career elsewhere is far from unusual even for players of his Hall of Fame caliber.

However, this doesn't feel like Watt is leaving for any reason other than what's become of the Texans. They have been strip-mined of not just resources but also intellectual power. It's getting better with a new general manager and coaching hires but it's too late when it comes to Watt.

DE J.J. Watt spent 10 seasons with the Houston Texans.

It may take years for the Texans to recover from the self-inflicted damage from awful ownership and doofus cornballs who shouldn't be near a second-rate comedy club, let alone part of an NFL front office.

This isn't a case of a competent franchise deciding to go with a younger player, or someone they think is the future, like when the 49ers went from Montana to Steve Young, or the Patriots releasing Tom Brady because they thought he was done (oops).

Watt won't say this but he's leaving because he can see and he's not dumb. There's a massive rebuilding coming in Houston because the coaches and front office have been grossly incompetent for years.

Watt's departure is the logical end of the Texans' futility.

Is Watt what he was five years ago? No. Few players are.

Yet there's no question he can play. ESPN Stats & Information says he ranked 15th out of 119th for qualified pass rushers in pass rush win rate. 

No one should feel sorry for Watt. He's rich and healthy. Watt will eat. He'll be fine.

It's just ... a waste. It's also possibly a peak into Watson's future, if he stays in Houston, which is becoming increasingly remote.

"I have sat down with the McNair family and I have asked them for my release and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time," Watt said in a video posted to Twitter. "I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who'd never really been to Texas before. And now I can't imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me, besides draft night. I mean, you guys booed me on draft night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you're my family."

"... I'm excited and looking forward to a new opportunity, and I've been working extremely hard. But at the same time, it is always tough to move on. And I just want you guys to know that I love you. I appreciate you. I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL."

Watt could end up somewhere like the Buccaneers, Steelers or Chiefs and if he does land in those places, he'll take a deep, relaxing breath. He'll be like an astronaut who softly pilots her ship to the surface of a beautiful, faraway moon after a long voyage through space.

If Watt plays for a good franchise it will seem different, weird, and alien. He'll see something he hasn't seen in a long time.

He'll see competence.