When you're the Houston Texans, you're coming off a 4-12 season in which you had (according to Pro Football Focus' grades) the second-to-worst defense, the worst run defense and were 25th overall in pass rush, you might assume that losing the best defender in the 20 year history of the franchise would be a bad thing. But according to a Bills beat reporter, there's at least one former coach who worked with JJ Watt in Houston who thinks his former team will be better for it. Addition by subtraction, if you will.
Selfish? Cared only about his stats? Hurts the defense? Hurt us more than he helped us? I wouldn't want him?
Those are some harsh words for anybody, much less a three time Defensive POTY who always seemed pretty popular in his own locker room and respected around the league. And bold. So bold you don't put your name to them for fear of backlash or Watt putting your quarterback on his Kill Bill-like hit list.
So I understand why whoever said it would keep it anonymous. And I wouldn't dare speculate who would use the word "selfish" to describe a guy who raised $33 million for flood relief. It would be irresponsible to say, look at the Bills current coaching staff, assume one of them would talk to a local reporter and point out that Buffalo's defensive backs coach was with the Texans from 2014-17. It could just be a coincidence. So forget I mentioned it.
One thing I think all reasonable people can agree on is that JJ Watt has an oversized ego. Nobody in the NFL has spent more time playing it up for the cameras than him. The cutaway shot from the end of a big Houston play to a helmetless Watt demonstratively cheering while the broadcast team gushes, "You think JJ Watt isn't excited?!?" is the first thing they teach you in TV Director School.
But "hurting the team" in the selfish pursuit of his own stats is a bold claim, indeed. One that we shouldn't dismiss out of hand, by the way. For the last 6 1/4 seasons (since 2014, that is), the head coach was Bill O'Brien and the defensive coordinator was Romeo Crennel. They were raised in New England's Do Your Job culture. Defensive players who produce big numbers but freelance don't last long in Foxboro. I offer you no better example than Watt's new matching bookmark, Chandler Jones. I've always been convinced that the reason Jones was traded was that Bill Belichick didn't feel he could be trusted to be where he was supposed to be when he was expected to be there. And that, despite all his obvious talent, he wasn't a system fit the way, say, Kyle Van Noy was. Because all 11 defenders are expected to fit together like a Spartan phalanx, and if one guy is out of position, the whole thing collapses. Which is why Jones has been so much more productive in Arizona where he can just pin his ears back and win battles in the blocking scheme and not sweat what the other 10 guys are doing. It's not a matter of which is more effective, it's a matter of what the system is.
So part of what this report - assuming it's accurate and not just one anonymous coach's opinion - demonstrates is how dysfunctional the Texans have been for a long time. When you've got coaches who think their best defender is doing more harm than good and they keep him around anyway, that's a systemic failure on a massive scale. Add to that the DeAndre Hopkins trade and now in all likelihood losing Deshaun Watson and it's obvious Jack Easterby sits on the throne of the most inept organization this side of the Jets. Good luck being better without Watt, Nick Caserio.