Somewhere at the beginning of his head coaching career, Lovie Smith got the label of being a pretty good guy. Maybe it’s because he went to church. Maybe it’s because he has a soft delivery when he speaks. He certainly commanded respect from his players, though that’s not indicative of much. Lovie certainly never blew up at the press or hung any player out to dry. Maybe that’s all it takes in the NFL, where the bar is at an un-limbo-able height.
Certainly the Houston Texans head coaching job came at Lovie pretty quickly, and maybe he hasn’t had time to come to terms with everything it involves. Or that’s what I would say if I were being nice. And it’s also something of a confusing situation where Deshaun Watson is concerned, as he remains in something of football purgatory. The Texans can’t really officially suspend him as the union would balk and he hasn’t been convicted of anything. On the other, he’s accused of assaulting/violating 22 women, which is horrific. I suppose the Texans could argue they threaded the needle the best they could, not allowing him to play but not suspending him to start a fight with the NFLPA. I wouldn’t pretend to know what the right answer would be. What I do know is that this isn’t it from Smith.
“I just know Deshaun is an excellent football player,” Smith said at a news conference Wednesday. He continued:
“Excellent football players need to be playing somewhere in the NFL. Hopefully that will happen and if it’s not with us it’s somewhere else and I’m sure ... as I see in this situation, both of us eventually are going to benefit from the situation and I just can’t wait for that to speed up a little bit.”
The issue has never been whether Watson is any good or not, and quite frankly the quality of a player’s career is far too often used as justification to ignore whatever they’ve done off the field. If they throw for a lot of yards/score a lot of goals/win a lot, then for the most part just about every misstep off the field is pushed to the periphery, if not completely off the board. The debate was never over whether Watson was any good, it’s been about what he’s been accused of, and whether that type of person has lost the privilege of playing in the NFL.
Which means that no, Lovie, Watson doesn’t need to be playing anywhere. It could very well be that he should be playing nowhere, depending on how his legal and civil cases are resolved and what the NFL makes of it. It’s hard to imagine that 22 different accusations will simply disappear into the air. While the NFL probably didn’t get a hint of the awkwardness and puke-inducing sendoff Ben Roethlisberger got in his final weeks on the job, we certainly did. And the league is probably at least cursorily aware of not wanting to do that again, at least not so soon. Which is probably why the Texans haven’t found any trade partners… yet. Watson very well may lose the right to play, and deservedly so.
How either side will benefit from all of this is another mystery, but by that point Lovie was just mashing words together as soon as they came into his head and just praying that they formed a sentence and that it applied to the subject at hand.
Lovie has been here before. He was the head coach when the Bucs drafted lizard person Jameis Winston No. 1 overall. Again, Lovie had his hands tied somewhat, as he was only the coach and the GM was always going to stick him with Winston, so Lovie had to make good to keep his job. Which only worked for one season anyway. But quotes like this certainly didn’t put Smith on the right side:
“But then there was a serious accusation we had to come to grips with. [The accusation that he sexually assaulted a Florida State student, Erica Kinsman.] That was investigated three times. No charges were filed. I understand something happened. But when do you get to the point where you say, ‘We have to let the courts decide, and we abide by their ruling?’ They did not charge Jameis with anything. And at that point, I am going to make the judgment that I am not going to hold this incident against him.”
We know why it never made it to court. It’s because the investigators were wearing their Florida State jerseys while looking into it.
This is who Lovie is, always happy to have the job he has, and this Texans one is probably his last one. So happy, in fact, that he’ll look the other way on just about anything.