Last season, the world thought there was a strong chance it might see a rookie quarterback start in the Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history. Throughout the regular season, it appeared that Dak Prescott could take the Dallas Cowboys to the Promise Land (aka the Super Bowl).
But the Cowboys failed to make it because of the one thing every team needs to win a championship—defense. They didn’t have one—not a very good one at least. As long as they were not asked to do too much, the Cowboys defense was sufficient. But once they were forced to be on the field for more than a few plays they were not.
The Houston Texans, on the other hand, have that kind of defense. They have had one for years but haven’t had a quarterback that could guide the team to the Super Bowl.
But they may have finally found him in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Houston Texans fans had hoped former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo could lead their team to the Promise Land next season. But Romo opted for the broadcast booth instead. With Osweiler gone, that left Tom Savage as the heir apparent.
Is Savage good enough? Maybe, but we don’t really know. If the team thought he could, they wouldn’t have acquired Osweiler last year. So, while they are talking a good game about Savage, the Texans must be looking and hoping for more.
Despite all the talk about the quarterbacks in this draft, Bill O’Brien must have seen enough of Deshaun Watson. Why else would he trade up and take him with the No. 12 pick in the draft?
Well—many point to the Ohio State and Alabama games in the playoffs last season. Alabama’s secondary wasn’t as tough as Ohio State’s, but the Buckeyes secondary was made up of NFL-caliber talent—and he destroyed them. Over the last couple of years, he has proven himself to be a capable leader and a quarterback that knows how to win games.
He struggled, at times, with his accuracy (especially downfield) but did complete 67 percent of his passes throughout his college career. The interceptions are troubling (30 over the last two seasons; 17 last year). After living through Osweiler’s 16 picks last season and Matt “Pick-6” Schaub, fans will not tolerate too many picks.
If Watson can make the transition to a pro-style offense, he’ll be in the starting lineup sooner rather than later. The Texans can say Tom Savage will start or have a shot to start. A team doesn’t trade away a first round pick for a guy that is going to sit on the bench. Unless Watson is terrible in training camp and the preseason, he will be the starter sooner rather than later.
But can he lead them to the Super Bowl?
In recent years, the Houston Texans have been considered “a quarterback away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They’ve won the division in four of the last six seasons thanks to their defense. But without a quarterback that could guide the offense past one of the better defenses in the NFL (Ravens in 2011; Patriots in ‘12 and ’16; Chiefs in ’15), they have been effectively stuck in the “friend zone” of the NFL.
They’ve been good enough to win their division and even a playoff game. But they haven’t had even a remote shot at getting to the game that matters most–the Super Bowl.
But can Watson get them over the hump?
It will not be so much Watson leading the Texans to the Super Bowl. It will be the defense leading and Watson making sure the offense does enough. There is no reason to think the defense will not be dominant again next season. If Hopkins can catch 111 passes for 1521 yards from a motley collection of QBs in 2015, the sky is the limit with Watson throwing to him. If Watson can be successful, that will take some pressure off Lamar Miller in the running game (who should get a healthy dose of help from rookie D’Onta Foreman).
So—can he? We’ll have to wait and see.