Maybe the coach doesn’t want his rookie to get a big head. Maybe the coach is still spoiled by his time with Tom Brady. Either way, Bill O’Brien was measured in his praise of quarterback Deshaun Watson after his first start.
“It wasn’t perfect,” O’Brien told reporters after the 13-9 win. “He did some good things. It will be a lot to learn from. We’ll watch the tape.”
One good thing was Watson’s 49-yard touchdown run, which came two snaps after Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins nearly blasted Watson all the way back to Clemson.
“It was a good play,” O’Brien said. “He didn’t see anything open down the field and they were in a Tampa coverage. He saw it and he took off. He can run, and he’s a very instinctive runner. He did a nice job on that play. . . . That’s one of the things you’ve seen throughout his career at Clemson, and what we’ve seen in the preseason here. He just has that ability and that knack. Sometimes he has to do a better job with it. Sometimes the journey is over and he wants to keep it going. I thought overall he did a nice job and he was smart with the ball.”
Watson completed 15 of 24 passes, with 13 targets fired in the direction of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who caught seven passes for 73. Watson also led the team in rushing, with 67 yards on five carries.
O’Brien wasn’t asked about the indirect blowback from quarterback Tom Savage, whose agent questioned the decision to bench Savage after only 30 minutes of football, but O’Brien generally addressed the decision to go with the rookie
“It’s just making decisions in the best interest of the team,” O’Brien said. “I really care about what the guys in that locker room think, and I talked to some of my assistants to see what they thought and a couple of other guys, and made a decision. I just try and make decisions in the best interest of the team.”
The decision led to a win on Thursday night, ugly as it may have been. And now the process of getting him ready to start more games will continue.