It appears that Deshaun Watson will finish the 2021 season in purgatory with the Houston Texans. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that the Texans granted Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross permission to meet with their quarterback on Monday night. He did not leave that meeting confident in Watson’s status for the rest of the season and decided not to pursue a trade prior to the Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.
Of course Ross made the correct decision, but it shouldn’t not have taken this long. Most teams backed off of trading for Watson once multiple suits were first filed in the spring accusing Watson of preying on massage therapists. The total number of accusers currently sits at 22, but the Dolphins have maintained interest in Watson from the offseason through their Monday night meeting.
However, there is one unfortunate result of Watson not being traded. It didn’t force the NFL to make a real decision on Watson’s eligibility for this season. At last week’s owner meetings, $128 million commissioner Roger Goodell said there was not enough evidence to put Watson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. That’s one way of saying that Watson would have been eligible to play, but it’s not the statement the NFL would’ve been forced to make if he had been traded and lined up under center in a helmet and shoulder pads during a game.
Those Getty Images photos and YouTube highlights would be splashed on websites and social media accounts all over the world, accompanied by comments and links to the accusations made against Watson. Accusations from 22 women, which collectively lay out a pattern of Watson sexually harassing and assaulting massage therapists, 10 of whom have filed criminal complaints.
The Texans’ refusal to put him on the field has allowed the NFL to keep outside the splash zone of these accusations. There’s no mess for the NFL to sit in if Watson isn’t on an NFL field in a uniform. The chatter will always be around, but come Sunday there’s no tarnished face staining the NFL by wearing one of its uniforms, and the reality that the league is allowing this to take place.
So, on one hand, it’s a relief that Watson won’t be traded. It would feel icky if, at 3:55 p.m. ET, the news broke. Social media would have been a cesspool of poor takes about sexual assault survivors, with others stumbling in their attempt to talk about the deal from a purely football perspective.
But maybe we need to feel icky. Maybe we need to see that No. 4 running around the backfield, throwing rainbows, and forces us to develop an unpleasant feeling in our stomach when Tony Romo compliments the play and soon after has to include his take on Watson’s 22 accusations of sexual misconduct.
If the NFL is not going to take a firm stance then, yes, we do need to feel icky for a while. As uncomfortable and offensive as it would be to see Watson on the field for the Dolphins, it’s better than letting the issue vanish like it has between reports of the Dolphins’ interest in Watson resurfacing every couple of months. Now, Ross and Goodell don’t have to say anything, and Watson continues his stay in purgatory for at least the rest of this season.