On Wednesday, when the Astros won the World Series, Houston was euphoric. On Thursday, when the Texans lost Deshaun Watson for the year with a torn ACL, Houston was devastated.
Watson, the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft, suffered the injury during a non-contact drill in practice.
“He tossed a ball to a running back and he kind of bounced. Boom. His right knee buckled,” Houston Chronicle NFL writer John McClain said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I can’t remember an injury happening on the grass practice field. It’s been there since 2001, and it’s such a freak thing. Everybody was hoping it was just sprained, and when they got the results back, players came out of their meetings and they heard what had happened. They were just devastated. Bill O’Brien is really good in times of distractions. Hurricane Harvey, now this, last week with Bob McNair and his players. The players said he gave them this fire-and-brimstone speech about how this team’s not going to fold like everybody thinks.”
Watson, who led Clemson to a national championship in January, had thrown for 1,699 yards and a league-leading 19 touchdowns. He also rushed 36 times for 269 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and two scores.
He was, at least for a month or so, the most dynamic quarterback in football.
“People are crushed,” McClain said. “It’s a roller coaster of emotion. He was so good. Greatest start for a rookie quarterback in history. They averaged 39 points over the last five games, 34 in his six starts, 30 overall.”
The Texans (3-4), who host the Colts (2-6) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, likely won’t come anywhere near that going forward.
“I expected them to beat Indianapolis 30-17,” McClain said. “Now with Tom Savage, I revised it to 19-17.”
Unlike in years past, the Texans cannot rely on their defense, either. From injuries to retirement to free agency, that unit it a shell of its former self and has allowed 36+ points in three of its last five games, including 41+ points in two of its last three.
“They cratered in three games defensively and that was against Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Russell Wilson,” McClain said. “Those three had 12 touchdown passes. But in their last five games in which they average 39 points, four of those teams had winning records.”
The Colts, of course, do not have a winning record. Still, it’ll take a lot from the defense – and Bill O’Brien – for the Texans to win this game.
“O’Brien does a really good job behind the scenes,” McClain said. “He was doing a tremendous job coaching Watson, devising a game plan, calling plays to take advantage of his skill set – and here comes Tom Savage: a classic pocket passer, no mobility. It’ll be interesting to see if the offensive linemen can offer him some decent protection they did not give him in that first game against the Jaguars.”
McClain also weighed in on Bob McNair, who was criticized last week for referring to protesting NFL players as “inmates.”
McClain was asked what he thinks is in McNair’s heart. Is he racist?
“I know what’s in his heart,” McClain said. “I’ve known him since ’99. He is the most unassuming multibillionaire I’ve ever met. I’ve had many conversations with him on and off the record. I’ve never heard him say one thing that would make me think he was racist.”
McNair, McClain said, has hired women and minorities to numerous high-profile positions over the years and has given millions away in scholarship funding.
“In this era that we live, you say one wrong thing and you’re skewered,” McClain said. “I felt terrible for him. In all the time I’ve known him, I’ve never caught him in a lie. The only two people in my 45 years in this business, including 38 covering the NFL for the Chronicle, that I’ve never not caught in a lie (are) Gary Kubiak and Bob McNair.”