Everyone assumed that the ability to win a Super Bowl would be at the top of J.J. Watt's personal Maslow's hierarchy of needs when it came to selecting his next team. With his announcement this afternoon that those considerable talents would be taken to the arid confines of the Arizona Cardinals, we already know that all assumptions were rather pointless because not even the most tapped-in reporters predicted this is where the All-Everything defensive end would land.
The knee-jerk reaction has tended to question — either implicitly or explicitly — Watt's motivations and if a financial windfall may be more of a factor than competing for a championship. And while the Cardinals are not exactly nearing the summit of the NFL's highest peak, it's not as though they're at the base of the mountain without proper climbing equipment.
Arizona was not a playoff team in 2020 but weren't far off, finishing 8-8. Kyler Murray, in his second year, took some demonstrable strides in his development, improving his QBR by more than 11 points and rushing for 819 yards while finding the end zone with more efficiency in his sophomore campaign.
DeAndre Hopkins, arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, is returning and will be hungry to succeed with his former Texans teammate by his side once again. Christian Kirk is poised for further breakout, and Larry Fitzgerald is Larry Fitzgerald.
Watt will join forces with Chandler Jones and be tasked with getting to the quarterback knowing full well there's a bevy of playmakers in the secondary to capitalize. With the No. 16 pick in the draft, the opportunity for an immediate contributor exists.
The path to a division crown is steep but not impossible. In a few months, Russell Wilson could be elsewhere and/or discontent. San Francisco has to prove it can reignite the magic that allowed a Super Bowl run, and Matthew Stafford, though fantastic, has a long injury history.
For most of last year it remained a dirty little secret that none of the teams separated themselves to a truly scary level. Eventually, Tom Brady carried Tampa Bay there, yet even they have some issues to shore up and greatness to replicate. He's ageless but eventually Brady will age — even if that's in two years. Aaron Rodgers feels like a guy who has things in life he'd like to do that aren't playing football.
All things considered, the conference may be truly up for grabs in 2022. What, exactly, makes Arizona Cardinals-Super Bowl chatter a non-starter?
Watt surely intends to play for more than this upcoming season. Arizona figures to have a pretty decent window opening up here. It seems like he found a way to get the best of both worlds and could emerge as a genius if the club does take that next level.
One thing we know is that he's not afraid of the hard work. Presenting this as another challenge to overcome is exactly how he wants it.