Quarterback Deshaun Watson has an NFL team and an NFL contract. He’s now getting an NFL education.
“We start him with what we call the basic information section of the playbook,” coach Bill O’Brien explained to reporters on Saturday. “How do we huddle? Where do you go in the huddle? If the Houston Texans are on this sideline, you’re on this side of the huddle. If you’re on this sideline, you’re on this side of the huddle. I mean, it’s that simple. It’s that detailed.
“Then it goes to how we call a play. What’s the verbiage of a play call? Obviously, our verbiage is a lot different than what he had at Clemson, and that’s the same for every rookie that is here relative to their college. It’s like learning a new language. That’s the way that I describe it to people that aren’t coaches and players. It’s learning a new language. It’s having to repeat it over and over again and then understand what it means, what each part of the play means to everybody in the huddle and then it’s what is the read of this play? Where are we directing this run? What type of defense are they in? I mean, it’s just like on and on and on.
“It’s just so much information that we throw at these guys, especially the quarterback position. But, as long as you keep plowing ahead and you take it one step at a time and you stick with it, you’ll learn it. But you have to repeat it, you have to stick with it, you have to study, and like I said, that’s any position.”
For now, the expectations for Watson are as simple as the approach to teaching him.
“Show up every day and get better,” O’Brien said. “Simple as that. Every single day, improve on the things that you need to improve on every single day. There’s always going to be something, whether it’s a play call or footwork or some type of decision at the line of scrimmage, that maybe you made a mistake on the day before or answered a question wrong in the meeting or whatever it is, let’s fix that. Let’s get better every single day. It’s a progress league. It’s about improvement every single day.”
Although Tom Savage is and, barring disaster, will be the starter, the Texans want to see Watson compete.
“I don’t have to say that to Deshaun Watson,” O’Brien pointed out. “He’s a very competitive guy. I mean, look what he did in college. The guy has only lost five or six games since he started playing high school football as a starting quarterback. So, I want everybody to compete. When you’re in this environment — I always say this to some of the guys — if you followed us around for a week, I’m telling you right now it’s probably one of the most competitive environments. I’d speak for any NFL team. NFL football is just an extremely competitive environment. Every minute of the day when they walk in the building here, it’s a competition. Whether it’s in a meeting, which is lower-key competition because we’re not physical in the meeting, obviously, or it’s in a walk-through or a jog-through or out at practice, it’s all about competition. I don’t think I need to say that to anybody in here.”
It can get frustrating to compete without a potential payoff. But if Watson’s competitive nature leads to production that causes everyone to realize he’s the best option for the team, then the Texans will have little choice but to adjust their approach. While that remains unlikely, five years ago the Seahawks ultimately knew that a third-round rookie was better than a veteran with a contract that paid out $10 million guaranteed.
Still, by making it clear Savage is the starter, Watson has no pressure. Or, more accurately, a little less pressure than the natural expectations that fall onto a guy for whom the team gave up two first-round picks to get.