Will Deshaun Watson Become the First Rookie QB To Win the Super Bowl?
Published on August 11, 2017
The Houston Texans officially kicked off their preseason on Wednesday night in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. Very few things went according to plan for Houston in a 27-17 defeat. However, there were a few bright spots.
Chief among those bright spots was the debut performance of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. The 12th overall pick in April’s draft played a lengthy stint spanning from the second to the third quarter and finished 15-for-25 with 179 yards passing. He also carried the ball three times for 24 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans’ brass has been adamant that Watson will begin the season as the understudy to Tom Savage, but NFL coaches and executives are pros at paying unnecessary lip service. They can babble on about Savage being the team’s starter, but if Watson continues to impress in the preseason then they may have no choice but to start the rookie once the games count for real.
The Texans have won the AFC South in back-to-back seasons with a 9-7 record. Usually, a 9-7 record gets you a top-20 pick in the draft. The Texans, however, have benefited from a largely weak and inept division that also features the Colts, Jaguars, and Titans.
While each of those three teams is expected to be improved this season, the Texans are considered by many to still be the favorites to win the division. Per BetOnline, Houston is at +190 to finish in first place. The Titans, who are a sexy pick to become contenders this season, are also tabbed at +190.
There are plenty of question marks in this division. Do the Titans now have enough offensive firepower around Marcus Mariota? Can Blake Bortles stop throwing interceptions? Is Andrew Luck healthy? If so, do the Colts actually have a defense capable of stopping anybody, anyway?
Houston’s biggest question over the last several years has been at the quarterback position. They rode a sturdy and talented defense to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs last season despite rolling out Brock Osweiler under center. Now that Osweiler has been fired into the sun (er, Cleveland), the Texans are hoping that Watson can be the franchise passer this team has lacked since its inception in 2002.
Preseason is preseason. Watson was doing his damage largely against a bunch of fellow rookies and players that won’t even sniff the Panthers’ final roster. One would imagine his numbers would not have looked nearly as good had he been facing Carolina’s No. 1 defensive unit.
Still, there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic if you’re the Texans. Young quarterbacks typically look skittish and get happy feet in the pocket. There was none of that to be seen with Watson. If anything, he looked more composed back there than Savage did during his time on the field.
Top-to-bottom, the Texans’ roster has as much if not more talent than any of their three challengers in the AFC South. We love Houston to make it three straight division titles, especially if Watson is in charge from Day 1. There’s decent profit potential here at +190. You can also get the Texans at +145 to make the playoffs in any capacity. We’ll take that one, too.
The NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award has been absolutely dominated by quarterbacks and running backs. There have been just three wide receivers to win the award since 1998. So, there’s a pretty legitimate chance that the award will be won by a QB or RB once again in ‘17.
Watson’s chances of winning will obviously be enhanced if he is the Texans’ starter all season long. If he is holding a clipboard for the first half of the season before getting the call, voters are going to hold that against him. So, his best chance at winning certainly comes with a larger sample size.
What about his competition?
Those are the third-best odds of any player, trailing only Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (+250) and Carolina Panthers tailback Christian McCaffrey (+375).
By all accounts, Fournette and McCaffrey are going to begin their rookie seasons as their respective teams’ starting running backs. The Jaguars are expected to relentlessly pound the ball with Fournette, especially given Bortles’ aforementioned troubles with interceptions in the past.
McCaffrey, meanwhile, is expected to be a two-way threat for Carolina. The Panthers went out this offseason with the goal of upgrading Cam Newton’s weaponry, and they did that with their first two picks in the draft. McCaffrey was not drafted to just stand on the sidelines or serve as a change-of-pace back.
Fortunately for Watson, it doesn’t appear likely that another QB will legitimately contend for the award. Mitchell Trubisky may well sit the entire season behind Mike Glennon, while DeShone Kizer may also serve as a backup in Cleveland. Even if Kizer plays, it’s not like he’s going to lead the Browns to a playoff berth.
Quarterbacks are most often credited with the way a team performs. If the Texans are able to make it to the playoffs once again with Watson leading the way, he’s going to reap the majority of the praise. If Houston falters, Watson will get his fair share of the blame.
Fournette and McCaffrey are unlikely to be punished by voters if their teams come up short of expectations. Either player is going to have to put up a monster individual season in order to win, as we saw last season with Cowboys rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott.
We like Watson here as something of an underdog at +600. If he can continue to show the poise he showed in his first NFL action, he has a great chance of succeeding at this level.
No rookie quarterback has ever led his team to a Super Bowl victory. Not one. Not even Russell Wilson or Tom Brady. Can Deshaun Watson become the first? There’s a first time for everything, right?
The Texans have only existed for a little more than a decade, but they have never even reached the AFC Championship Game. To be fair, the AFC has been dominated by a small group of teams during that span. The New England Patriots have won five Super Bowls since ‘01. The Texans also had to contend with Peyton Manning’s Colts in their own division for the majority of their existence. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have also reigned supreme out of the AFC North. The Denver Broncos have made it to a pair of Super Bowls in the last few seasons, too.
While the Patriots and Steelers are still very much legitimate contenders, the AFC is now as wide open as it’s ever been. There are teams like the Raiders and Chiefs that may be knocking on the door, but neither of those teams is head-and-shoulders better than the Texans are at this stage. Houston has just as good of a chance as either of them at making noise in the postseason.
As of now, the Texans are listed at +1000 to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl next February. They’re at +2000 to actually win it. The Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, and Raiders are the only teams with better chances of winning the AFC. Those four teams, as well as the Falcons, Packers, Cowboys, Seahawks, and Giants, have better Super Bowl odds.
In all likelihood, Houston is not winning the Super Bowl this year. Despite the aforementioned talented defense, there are still plenty of areas of concern. Even if Watson performs well, he’ll have to do so behind what appears to be a sketchy offensive line. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins, there aren’t any established pass-catchers on the roster, either. The Texans still likely have some work to do as far as player personnel goes before they can seriously think about challenging the likes of the Patriots in the AFC.
There’s excellent value there at +2000, though. If you’re feeling optimistic, we won’t scold you for taking a flier. Watson has beaten longer odds in the past.