The phrase “franchise player” is over-used in football, but it’s also an accurate description of some players. All successful teams has a key player that provides leadership for the squad and makes the big plays that elevate the team to championship status. For most NFL teams, that franchise player is the quarterback, since that player is usually both the franchise leader and the offensive engine that makes the team success.
But in the case of the Houston Texans, their franchise player is defensive end J.J. Watt. And while he seems to be able to do just about everything, the one role he cannot fill is the one the Texans need most right now: a star quarterback.
Since the Texans drafted him in 2011, Watt has been the dominant defensive player for both the team and the arguably the National Football League. He holds the Texan’s franchise record in many defensive categories, including forced fumbles and sacks. He’s the first player in the history of the NFL to put together two back-to-back 20 plus sack seasons and his fellow NFL players named him the number one player in 2014.
While Watt is primarily a defensive end, he’s also played some downs in other positions. He will sometimes line up as a defensive tackle and has even played on the offensive squad in limited situations. In fact, he played some downs in 2014 as an offensive lineman and in that capacity caught three touchdown passes.
And there are times when fans get a glimpse of Watt’s throwing abilities, including a recent preseason game when he tossed a football to a fan sitting in the upper reaches of the stands. It’s a throw that some veteran NFL quarterbacks couldn’t accomplish and seeing it; it’s fun to imagine Watt doing this as the Texan quarterback.
But there are some reasons why that idea is nothing but a fantasy. The biggest thing that the Texans couldn’t afford to lose is his defensive talents, no matter how naturally talented a thrower he might be. J.J. Watt is irreplaceable on the defense and finding someone who can score 21 points a game doesn’t matter if your defense gives up 28 points at the same time. And that’s the likely scenario for a Watt-less Texan defensive squad.
And there is the larger point that J.J. Watt doesn’t appear to be interested in taking on the role. And why should he? In his current position, he is a fan favorite that is a full-blown football star. Shifting to the quarterback position puts him the worst of two roles. Fans would expect miracles and given the other offensive problems on the Texan squad, it’s unlikely that the most talented quarterback in the NFL could craft an immediate turnaround for the team.
So while it’s fun to imagine J.J. Watt out on the field for the Texans calling the shots, the idea is more of a fan fantasy than a realistic scenario. But it is fun to imagine what it would look like, even for just one Sunday.
Photo credits by ftw.usatoday.com