Deshaun Watson: Player and Owner Power Dynamics

Deshaun Watson has developed into a top-five quarterback in the NFL over the last few years. However, the Houston Texans managed to go 4-12 while dealing with dysfunction all season. Nonetheless, they still have a franchise quarterback that they can one day build around. All of a sudden, things changed when Deshaun Watson spoke about his unhappiness with the organization and requested a trade. The Texans organization has expressed that they have zero interest in trading Deshaun and leaving things at a standstill. Deshaun has expressed he would hold out during the season to force the Texans to trade him. This leaves everyone wondering how Deshaun Watson’s battle with the Texans will shape the future of player and team relationships.

Over the last few seasons, we have seen a plethora of players holdout on teams for bigger contracts. It would usually be a running back such as Le’Veon Bell or Melvin Gordon. Usually when we hear about a play threatening to hold out it is about money. In the case of Le’Veon Bell, he sat out a season in search of a large contract. He eventually landed with the Jets where he had a disappointing tenure with them. Furthermore, he never got the offer he was truly looking for after a year of sitting out. Melvin Gordon tried sitting out so that the Chargers would offer him a larger contract. From these cases, we learned that having to pay player holdouts their desired money can be unwise. This is especially true in the case of running backs.

In the case of Deshaun Watson, there are particular details that make this situation very different and very interesting…

How is this different?

For starters, unlike the previous situations mentioned, Deshaun is not concerned with the money. He recently signed a long term deal with the Texans at the start of the season. However, with dysfunction at every turn, the relationship between the Texans and Deshaun was deeply severed. Deshaun is trying to force himself out of Houston due to the incompetence of the Texans ownership and front office. Another major difference in this situation is the position he plays. Deshaun Watson is a quarterback who is entering his prime and is an irreplaceable talent in the NFL. Due to the NFL being such a quarterback-driven league, the Texans are doing everything they can to avoid trading him. This leads to a dilemma that will continue to drag out as it seems that the Texans are trying to do everything to mend the relationship while Deshaun is doing everything to leave. 

With Deshaun trying to force himself out of Houston, everyone is looking to see who wins this battle. The NFL has always been very team-oriented and player movement is not as prominent as it is in the NBA. If Deshaun can force himself out of Houston there will likely be a surge in players trying to take control of their destiny. We are already seeing ripples of the impact this is having around the league with Russel Wilson. A quarterback who has never spoken out is starting to voice his displeasures with the Seahawks organization. With the Texans being very adamant about not trading Deshaun, this standstill may last for a long time. If that is the case, we may have a delay in the transition the NFL may take to having a more player-oriented league.  

Deshaun Watson is undoubtedly a tremendous talent who fans want to see strive. Furthermore, it would be a huge loss for NFL viewers if one of the premier players does not play next season. The push and pull of power dynamics of the NFL are being challenged by Deshaun. Whatever happens, will have great effects on the NFL and will be the biggest storyline heading into next season. Finally, if this transition were to occur it would be fitting for a quarterback to be one of the players to truly initiate it.