J.J. Watt could’ve gone to just about any team he wanted in free agency last year. At age 32 and in his 11th year in the league, it’s more probable than not that he’s entered the twilight of his career, but with three DPOY awards under his belt, anyone would’ve taken him.
In every major sports league today, just about every great, aging player who hasn’t won a ring signs with a contender to try and get one. And who can blame them? Athletic careers are extremely finite, but championships last forever. You gotta take those opportunities while you can. That’s why everyone and their momma is signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Maybe we as fans are so used to it at this point that it’s shocking when they still want to compete. When J.J. Watt decided to join an Arizona team that had just gone 8-8 and finished third in their division, the sentiment was that Watt doesn’t care about winning a Super Bowl.
A great player who is a free agent late in their career is always in a tough spot from the perspective of not drawing criticism with their decision. If you take less money to go to a contender, you’re “ring chasing.” If you take more money from a lesser team, you “don’t care about winning.”
Watt must care at least a little bit about winning because he’s doing an awful lot of it. Now through six weeks, the Cardinals are the last undefeated team in the league. At 6-0, they’re already two wins away from last year’s total, and while Watt is not solely responsible for this huge improvement, he is certainly contributing to it.
I haven’t seen Watt speak on the subject, but considering how famous his work ethic and competitiveness are, I was genuinely surprised that people thought he didn’t want to win. Maybe he actually cares about winning so much that he didn’t want to do it the easy way.
Arizona was honestly the perfect situation for him. Sure, he could’ve gone to the Bucs or the Chiefs (cough, cough - Le’Veon Bell, Richard Sherman, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown) and just coasted to a ring, being on a team that was going to contend with or without him, but he went to an up and coming team where he could be part of putting them over the top.
The other part of the, “You’re not trying to win if you’re going to Arizona,” argument that I didn’t understand is that Arizona’s ascension isn’t totally out of left field. They went 8-8 last year, 5-11 the year before, and 3-13 the year before that. They were already getting better every year and they have a quarterback drafted No. 1 overall, who is now in his third year.
As it stands right now, the Cardinals have as good a chance to win the whole thing as anybody, and wouldn’t that just be hilarious if Watt secured both the $31 million bag and a ring. Let’s hope he does if for no other reason than that might ignite his love of football so much that he spends his offseason training to win another one and not hosting that Duck Duck Goose competition or whatever on the Fox Network with his two even less charismatic brothers.