At the beginning of the 2020 NFL season, a Houston Texans team absent both Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt was near-unfathomable. The two have come to define the organization both through their stellar play and consistent presence in the community. Now it is January 2021 and the thought of both playing different uniforms is not only a realistic possibility, it's downright expected.
Watson's relationship with the team has grown more rotten than the oldest tree branch and he has officially requested a trade. The team's forward-facing message is that they have no interest in trading their superstar QB, because of course they don't have interest in doing so. But nothing we've heard so far indicates there is even a remote chance that Watson will change his mind and show up for camp in August. Barring a miracle, Watson will be in a different uniform come September.
It now feels that Watt will follow him. The star defensive end's frustration with losing was evident throughout the season in his postgame press conferences. The man hates being on a bad team. He said that very clearly back in November when he told reporters he has absolutely no interest in being apart of a rebuild with the Texans.
Then came the report on Saturday morning from Ian Rapoport (sporting a dope t-shirt because it's the weekend, baby) that a split feels close between the former Defensive Player of the Year and the team that drafted him.
Watt probably doesn't want to leave. He loves Houston, as could be seen in his various press conferences this season when he talked about how terrible it felt to let down the fans in a losing season. It's the only team he's ever played for in the National Football League.
But the tides are changing within the organization. Jack Easterby appears to have the owner's ear and a Sports Illustrated report suggests the players aren't big fans of that. If they trade Watson, a rebuild is all but assured barring any particularly wild transaction that lands them with a replacement QB good enough to contend. All the while Watt stands by and watches as his team fails him again.
Why would he want to stay? The Texans are not contractually obligated to send him away if he asked, but the organization has taken enough bad PR over the last five months and doesn't need to add fuel to that fire by refusing to trade arguably the best player in franchise history when he doesn't want to be there anymore. And there's no real motivation to keep a player of his caliber anyway if a full-on rebuild is the path they choose to take. Interpersonal responsibility aside, it would be the smart move for recently-hired GM Nick Caesiro to get whatever he can for Watt.
Taking it all into consideration, a divorce seems inevitable at this point. It's only a matter of when.