The Cleveland Browns will be without Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games of the season but shouldn’t be thinking he’ll be their “savior” upon his return.
The Browns traded for Watson this offseason, knowing he’d likely miss some time after he was accused by more than two-dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. The team was quick to sign Jacoby Brissett to be his backup, bringing in the veteran QB on a one-year deal.
After 11 games, the Browns’ direction for the season will be relatively clear. They’ll either be in the mix for a playoff spot and still in the running for the AFC North crown, or they’ll be out of the playoff picture with six games left on the schedule. If the latter is the case, Watson’s return will be mostly a moot point, which Hall of Fame coach and Football Night in America analyst Tony Dungy pointed out during a conference call with media members.
“Deshaun Watson is not going to be the savior that rallies a poor team or a team that’s not functioning,” Dungy said, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “They’re not going to just say, ‘Oh, all of a sudden Deshaun’s back, and we’re going to start winning.’ What do they do in these first three months of the season?
“What kind of ball is Cleveland going to be playing? What is the rest of the team doing? Jacoby Brissett is a good quarterback, and if they can rally around him and be relevant [when Watson returns from his suspension], then they’re going to be fine.”
Simms Pitches Situation Where Watson Sits for Full Season
Prior to landing with the Browns, Brissett served as a backup to some high-profile quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and, most recently, Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. He also carries some starting experience of his own, with 37 starts to his name and a record of 14-23 in those games. In six seasons, Brissett has put up 7,742 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
If the Browns are hitting on all cylinders with Brissett under center, former NFL quarterback Chris Simms — who is also a member of the Football Night in America crew — is not so sure Cleveland should turn to Watson.
“I mean, I’m not crazy, but I’m kind of crazy — I’d go, ‘Maybe let’s not upset the applecart there and just ride it out for this year,’” Simms said. “But if they feel like in any way, shape or form, ‘Hey, it’s not this year, we’re a .500 ball club [and] we’re not doing good,’ Deshaun Watson’s got to play again.”
Browns Need to See Watson Knock Off Rust
It’s quite the idea from Simms, but let’s be honest — Watson is going to play regardless because the Browns have simply invested too much in him to have him anywhere but on the field following his suspension. Watson’s contract with the Browns guarantees him a league-record $230 million and he’s the future in Cleveland.
Watson last played in an NFL game on January 3, 2021, so he’s going to need time to knock off the rust and get used to the new reality of getting viciously booed at every stadium he plays in, which the Browns saw in his lone preseason appearance.
“There are certainly going to be hurdles,” Dungy said, “especially when you haven’t played in two years.”
The Browns are +380 to win the AFC North, with the Ravens (+140) and Bengals (+170) installed as the favorites, per Odds Checker. The Steelers are a +1,000 longshot to capture the division.