Deshaun Watson’s Houston success may not translate to Browns stardom

Deshaun Watson’s Houston success may not translate to Browns stardom

Let’s start with the assumption that Deshaun Watson can play quarterback at an elite level, but does that mean he can play at that level for Kevin Stefanski and the Browns?

Although Deshaun Watson was arguably an elite quarterback in Houston, does that necessarily mean he will be as good for Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland?

This isn’t a slam dunk because he played for a great offensive mind in Bill O’Brien, who has a reputation for being able to design an offense that can play with quarterback talents ranging from Tom Brady to Brock Osweiler and still score. the blows.

Watson had never played for another coach in the pros before coming to Cleveland. Stefanski, on the other hand, was also brilliant, but known for a more focused formula: run-heavy, ball-handling, with extra blocking, suited to a quarterback as a game manager like Case Keenum or Baker Mayfield.

Stefanski’s style, in theory, allowed the team to invest in tight ends and defensive ends instead of expensive speed-demon receivers, and thus was very salary-friendly, allowing the team to spend its resources on defense. Of course, that’s assuming they make smart investments, rather than signing players like Austin Hooper, who will draw a $7.5 million cap hit in 2023 even though he no longer plays for them. It is not automatic.

That’s all out the window with the signing of Watson, a top quarterback who comes at a higher price tag and might be best paired with pricey wide receivers. Let’s not go crazy asking Watson. He can play center back. But in the NFL, there’s only a hair’s breadth of difference between a top-five quarterback and an average quarterback. Who makes the top five anyway?

Check out the highest paid quarterbacks. While we’re pretty sure Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are worth what they’re getting, quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr are more debatable values. It’s a fair question to ask if Watson really is a perennial top-five quarterback, as his salary suggests, or if he could be a skill player who, like most quarterbacks, is just as good. than the players around him.

So what were the attributes that allowed him to work with Bill O’Brien so well that he was able to pass for 269 yards per game and throw for 104 TDs against just 36 INTs in Houston?

Browns, Deshaun Watson. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Why Deshaun Watson was successful in Houston

Watson himself reveals Houston’s offense in an interview with Kurt Warner and Brian Baldinger at NFL Films. You can link it here: Deshaun Watson Chalkboard Session with Warner and Baldinger.

Never fear, Watson is a highly intelligent quarterback who makes complex reads and progressions. However, he isn’t necessarily reading defenses and coverages, but starting with the defensive lines and linebackers. The Texans’ play begins with a handoff, which Watson pulls at the last moment to turn it into a run-pass play. He then has a choice to throw to a running back or shift his focus downfield to a wide receiver. In many cases, the game is designed so that at least one receiving target is in the same field of view.

That’s neither good nor bad, but it’s not the same as the reads made by Baker Mayfield or Kirk Cousins ​​in Stefanski’s offense, or Aaron Rodgers in Alex Van Pelt’s Green Bay Packers offense. Those quarterbacks were making multiple reads down the field, with the proverbial “head on a spinner” looking to split the seam in a zone.

Coincidentally, in that 2019 season, Watson’s backfield was populated by former Browns Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde, who combined for 1,932 yards from scrimmage. Both were thought to be Browns bound, but thrived under coach O’Brien.

This is somewhat disturbing. The assumption is that the credit for Watson’s success belongs exclusively to the player and not the coach. Here’s what we thought of the great Russell Wilson and the dumb old Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was carrying Russ.

If only Carroll were out of the way, Russ would win Super Bowl after Super Bowl. Remember that story?

Maybe, just maybe, we got it wrong, and Carroll may deserve just a little credit for Wilson’s success in Seattle. Similarly, the assumption is that O’Brien was just a hood ornament in Houston that had nothing to do with Deshaun’s success there. But this may not be exactly true.

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