As a result fans and media have laid the criticism of Watson on thick, which has not escaped the quarterback’s attention.
“I mean, I see it, I hear it. It’s impossible not to see it unless I just turn off my phone completely or turn off the TV completely,” Watson said. “But it comes with the territory, it comes with the status and the standard that people hold me to. So I don’t look at it as anything bad. I don’t look at it as anything personal.”
Watson went on to say that he believes the criticism is actually an acknowledgement of his talent
“It’s part of the game, it’s part of my level, and I look at it as, hey, people hold me to the standards so I have to make sure I play to that standard,” Watson continued. “And if I’m not, then I have to continue to find ways to get better. So I don’t take it personal. I don’t get in my feelings about it. It’s just continue to just keep growing and keep learning and keep working each and every day.”
Critics Take Aim at Deshaun Watson’s On-Field Behavior
Watson struggled upon his return to the field late last season after nearly two years away from the game due to off-field legal issues involving dozens of claims of sexual misconduct. Those difficulties, and Watson’s inconsistencies, have persisted through the first two contests of the 2023 campaign.
The quarterback has completed just 55.1% of his passes for 389 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His QBR is a career-worst 29.3, per Pro Football Reference. While Watson’s performance on the field across the Browns’ 1-1 start has been a far cry from the Pro-Bowl form he achieved with the Houston Texans between 2018-20, he has also been criticized for his behavior during games.
“Watson had two face-mask penalties against the [Pittsburgh] Steelers. He put his hands on umpire Bill Anderson in a way that easily could have led to ejection and suspension,” Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated wrote on Wednesday, September 20. “This was not the behavior of a franchise quarterback, but then, Watson hasn’t played like a franchise quarterback for one game since Donald Trump was president.”
Dorian Thompson-Robinson Viable Replacement for Deshaun Watson, but Browns Tied Own Hands
Despite his struggles over an eight-game sample size since returning from suspension in 2022, Watson remains in a unique position among NFL quarterbacks.
He is playing in just the second season of a five-year contract that fully guarantees him $230 million. No matter how Watson plays over the next couple of seasons, the Browns are stuck with him. If he plays well, Cleveland will want to keep him. If he doesn’t, Watson’s albatross of a contract will make him exceedingly difficult to move. As such, Watson has the kind of job security typically afforded only to the consistently great — Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes, for example.
What will make the situation even harder to stomach for Browns fans should Watson’s struggles continue is that the team drafted a viable option in rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is likely to languish on the bench for multiple years barring serious injury to Watson.
Thompson-Robinson outplayed Josh Dobbs during the preseason to win the backup job. The Browns then traded Dobbs, who is the current starter for the Arizona Cardinals while Kyler Murray remains sidelined with injury.
Watson hasn’t played poorly enough for long enough this season to warrant getting yanked, especially since the Browns are .500 and have been competitive in both games against quality opponents. However, even if Watson’s play eventually warrants a benching, the Browns have tied their own hands and rendered any such move a concession of extreme team-building failure.