How The Texans choose to manage this unprecedented situation will define the Franchise’s future as viable football entity.
Looking at underlying causes, Watson’s personal situation & how the team should handle the situation.
Two diverging worlds are emerging: people who are entrenched in social media and those that aren’t. The latter, it could be argued, have a far broader perspective, seek more in-depth and credible information sources to help to shape opinions. The former are shaped by algorithms. These two factions co-exist in isolation but have consequences when they collide. As the majority of NFL on-lookers are abstract from this reality and the Watson case has brought this clash, jarringly out into the open.
Instagram serves to showcase a variance of product or services, whilst equally it provides an entry point for those seeking infamy. Tactics often employed are to derive associations with those of reach, to create the interactions with an end goal of monetisation. But for all the scenic pictures and videos of the family pet, there are equal waves of advertisements & paid subscription gateways.
Therefore, creating a dynamic where monetary gains & by default notoriety, are the drivers for the platforms success. It provides a prime construct for the rich and (in)famous to exploit. Combining those elements, the reality likely has a harsh outcome due to the human element involved. This outlook has been ingrained in a generation of people, that use to determine their self worth, where the an App & real life continue to intertwine.
It’s unfortunate for Texans fans that their quarterback or departing quarterback, falls into that generation. But as Watson & his ‘camp’ have found, there is a sharp fall between these lines of cyber learned behaviours and what society can deem acceptable. It appears for some, that these lines have never been so blurred, but when the two meet, it’s been shown in an ugly & public light, that many wouldn’t have considered even existed.
The Watson Uprising:
Now back to football, sort of.
Watson, prior to March, had positioned himself as the model sports professional. His trade demands were rooted in exactly that. The organisation had wronged him. To a highly principled man, this was an irreversible relational fracture with the Texans. Back in January, few would have differed.
Subsequently the foundations of his stance have dissolved through the ensuing, public character assassination. Taking the moral high ground versus a bumbling owner was now, diminished in its credibility.
But could have this mess been avoided? Were the trade demands and this off-field matter linked? Those answers will likely never be public knowledge but what is certain – Watson was ill-advised by his agency.
Previously, the information flow to ESPN had been constant throughout the play-offs peak-news-cycles, as Athletes First set out to publicly tarnish the Texans. Perhaps a tact that David Mulugheta may regret, against a group of billionaire owners who’ve developed a fine track record of collusion. Particularly against those who pose a threat to their ‘industry’ and individual talent is a distant secondary consideration.
Fast-forward to a situation where Watson is the recipient out public out-cry, his agency now sits silent. Watson initially released a statement and now the strategic direction of his defence appears to have changed. So, should have the lawyers at Athletes First advised him on what to or not say? Could this have been a more sensible starting point to this saga?
His agency, as public evidence has shown, dismissed the opportunity of managing this situation in a proactive manner. It appears now that Rusty Hardin was hired as reactionary measure to the sprawling list of accusers. But the the long-time Houston lawyer-to-the-stars was handed a standing start. The modern day PR battle via social media, the public pursuit by Tony Buzzbee has left a trail of doubt, regardless of the evidence. That doubt will perennially hover over the remainder of Watson’s career & life after football.
The breadth of complaints and span of timeline of these allegations are what may see a settlement manifold or his reputation tarnished, inhibiting a departure from Houston, in the interim. As it’s already curtailed his income in endorsements, prevented owners signing-off trade packages and Dessaun will eventually receive some form of suspension by the league.
As this news blocked the light shone on the NFL’s new TV deal announcement, that had been years in the making. The sound of that lead balloon bouncing along the corridors of a certain plush Park Avenue office, will not go unscathed. That day will last in the memory of Goddell & his 32 employers, who inevitably will seek retribution.
It returns again to the question: was Watson was advised to pursue a trade, only 9 months after signing his contract, with the looming external legal factors and blocking off any communication with the team? As regardless of the motivation or outcome, his representation has failed him spectacularly. Taking this anti-establishment stance, with limited leverage, Watson’s career, reputation and legacy will all be lessened as a result.
So has the experience humbled him or some of his agencies thinking? As Watson could now benefit from stability as person and as a football player. A familiar place to re-habilitate and re-build would be a logical step for the guy who promised a super bowl to the city only in November last year.
The whole rationale of a desired exit has appeared forced, inconsistent from the outset. Now the legal case has curtailed any immediate movement. Enter, Nick Caserio who could salvage this house of cards, he unknowingly inherited.
A Sensible Outcome:
In order to steer a pro-sports entity such as the Texans, it requires prudence in the ability to separate the broader view, from every swinging axe brought with each news cycle. The McNair’s showed this abundance with the Jack Easterby retention & Nick Caserio hiring, the resulting furore was met steadfastly in defiance. Can they display this once more, in a situation that is critical in shaping the franchises future?
As a business first & foremost, the uncertainty is not welcomed. The sentiment within the McNair family is largely unknown & they may well task Caserio with moving on, if allegations are proven and the stain is too much to bare. The issue in that instance is, in selling to a reduced market, due to no other factors than perception would unlikely yield a true return. A position this team have found themselves in too many times.
Allegations, civil court settlements or not, Waston’s talents remain. As this process concluding Houston’s best course action is to help their quarterback. Deshaun has undeniably made some questionable life choices and put himself and other people in an unforgiving positions. He’s caused substantial damage, but is it irreversible?
In years from now, whichever team Deshaun Watson is throwing touchdown passes for, will the current acrimony be just a distant thought? Were Ben Rothlisberger’s legal cases an insurmountable issue for the Steelers? Was it a central theme when Pittsburgh won a super bowl? It was a different situation, in a different era but the choices faced by the team are similar.
Post the conclusions of the legalities, can Houston be bold enough to provide a platform for rehabilitation? A case of redemption for a player who was and could be again the face of the franchise. The court of public opinion can be fierce but if there was a player to stand by, with a public showing, on how people can correct their ways, by draw awareness to a cause he has wronged and then do right, it’s Watson.
The McNair’s claim they are invested in the community and by dollars donated on paper they are. But this could be the truest test, of that philanthropy. Is it bound only by perception & it’s resulting impacts on their billion-dollar business? Or by a genuine will to help people? As custodians of Houston they have a duty to help all of those surrounding this case, if they are true to their word, they will, not just when it sits comfortably with their bottom line.