In life, expectations often serve to strongly dictate the perception of life events. If a team enters a season with low expectations, any degree of moderate success is seen as large victory. On the flip side, inflated expectations can lead to crippling disappointments, even if the outcomes are in fact what people would be comfortable with.
On Sept. 5, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a 4-year, $160 million dollar extension. The new contract made him the second-highest paid player in the NFL for the next four years and tied Watson to the city of Houston until at least 2025.
In the face of a gutting defeat this Sunday, losing 33-16 to the Baltimore Ravens and lacking any competitive aspect, this is important to keep in mind as fans process why they feel the way they feel. When pen hit the paper that Saturday afternoon, expectations in Houston changed.
On the surface, Watson played a fine game. The fourth year quarterback completed 25-of-36 passes (69.4%), for 275 yards, touchdown, and an interception. This all came amongst fierce pressure from the Raven’s defense and a game plan that could simply muster nothing on the ground as the Texans whimpered to 51 total rushing yards. For many quarterbacks this could be seen as a respectable outcome against what is quite arguably the most loaded defense in the league.
However, that cannot be the sheer analysis this time. Regardless of the Ravens strength. Regardless of Bill O’Brien’s apparent ineptitude. Regardless of how bright Deandre Hopkins shines with Kyler Murray in Arizona. The expectations have changed. Watson is no longer the young up-and-comer that has the front office excited about the future. No. 4’s greatness is well known, his nicknames are numerous, and only Patrick Mahomes’ annual salary is bigger than his at the position.
The Texans offense appeared lifeless on Sunday. The sideline looked distraught and absent of energy. The first half turnover to Marcus Peters was horrific. Watson missed short looking for Brandin Cooks the next drive, one that desperately needed a touchdown.
SEE BALL, GET BALL @marcuspeters
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/3W4Uqa3OFZ
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2020
The game never felt competitive when the Texans returned from the locker room. Houston scored only 6 points in the second half, showing no urgency despite staring 0-2 in the face. This is not to blame Watson or say this is an indictment on him, but rather to question how this loss should be processed.
If Watson is who the media, the fans, and his contract says he is, there is absolutely no reason a game atmosphere should feel like today. Teams captained by Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and other quarterbacks of Watson’s caliber rarely, if ever, show the levels of “quit” the Texans seemed to show Sunday.
Watson can’t control the play-calling or the brutal opening schedule the league handed down to Houston’s franchise. In fact, there were some pretty incredible throws mixed into what was a perfectly average day. However, Watson’s expectations have been elevated. Performances like the past two weeks cannot simply be written off while acknowledging Watson’s greatness, the two opinions are simply not compatible.
If Watson is the class of the league at quarterback, then the team is a Super Bowl contender. Judge appropriately. The new look offense and Watson will look to finally have their signature game next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.