Unfortunately, we live in a “What have you done for me lately society,” especially when it comes to sports.
Just last week, LSU fired Les Miles four games into the season. What a great way to honor a guy who won that program a national championship and a school-record 77 percent of his games in his 12 years in Baton Rouge.
At least Georgia had enough dignity to let Mark Richt go at the end of the season last year. However, why in the world would you fire the only coach since 1980 to win you not one, but two SEC Championships and 10-plus games a year in his 14 years in Athens? He won 74 percent of his games for goodness sake.
And it doesn’t just stop with head coaches. It happens to players, too. If you don’t believe me, look at Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Tigers’ signal-caller came into the season as the media’s darling. Everyone was in awe of him, especially after the 478 total yards and four touchdowns he put up against Alabama in the National Championship Game last January.
But now, it is Deshaun who?
Thanks to a slow start—which can mostly, not all, be contributed to his wide receivers’ 16 drops in four games—Watson appears to be an afterthought of sorts as the third-ranked Tigers get set for Saturday’s ACC Atlantic Showdown with No. 4 Louisville in Death Valley.
If you were just a casual observer, and you turned over to ESPN and ESPNU, you might think Watson was just an average quarterback compared to Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Just about every analyst has given Jackson the edge as the better quarterback in the matchup, which surprises me.
Granted, Jackson is an unbelievable player, and I personally love watching this guy play. He is an incredible athlete who can do a lot of things. I mean the numbers he has put up in just four games, and the way he has done it, is something we have never seen.
But the question is “Who is the better quarterback in this game?” Not who is the better athlete. And for the record, Jackson is the better athlete and overall player, but it isn’t by much. But when you ask me who the better quarterback is, with an emphasis on the word “quarterback,” it is clearly Deshaun Watson.
It is amazing to me how everyone has seemingly forgotten that.
I understand Watson has not started the year the way everyone would have hoped, but that does not mean he is any less of a quarterback than he was last year. If you don’t believe me, watch him play. Look at his decision making. Look at the throws he makes. Watch how he looks over a defense. He is one of the best, if not the best, pre-snap quarterback in college football.
When he is in the pocket, watch how he goes through his progressions, and if he has to leave the pocket, look at what he is doing. He isn’t looking to run. He is extending the play and has eyes down field the whole time. He feels the pocket as good as any college quarterback I have ever seen.
Finally, and most importantly, Watson is a winner and when the stakes are high he performs at an even a higher level than before. He is 22-2 as a starter. To break that down even better, take away the starts against Louisville and Georgia Tech in 2014 when he got injured, and he is 21-1 when he starts and plays the entire game. That’s a .955 win percentage.
In the big games, no one is better than Watson. He doesn’t get rattled. He came off the bench in 2014 as a true freshman in Tallahassee and competed 19 of 28 passes for 266 yards in nearly knocking off the No. 1-ranked Seminoles at the time.
Later that year, he played on a torn ACL and whipped rival South Carolina to snap a five-game losing streak to Clemson’s archrival. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, while running for two more scores as well in a 35-17 victory.
Though his passing numbers were not all that great against No. 6 Notre Dame, he still threw two touchdown passes in a driving rain storm and rushed for 93 yards and another touchdown in a huge win.
Then, against Florida State later in the year, he completed 28 of 42 passes for 297 yards, while running for another 107 as Clemson clinched the ACC’s Atlantic Division title. In the ACC Championship Game, he earned Most Valuable Player honors as he completed 26 of 42 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 131 and two more scores.
He then took home MVP honors in the Orange Bowl win over No. 4 Oklahoma, and of course there was the record-breaking performance in the national championship game against Alabama.
What makes Watson such a good quarterback, and the reason I would take him in this matchup, is the fact he can do all the things I need my quarterback to do. He can make all the throws. He can throw the deep ball. He can handle pressure in his face. He is smart with the football and most importantly, he is a winner. He knows how to perform and win in the pressure-type games, at home and away. He has done it time and time again in his Clemson career.
Though Jackson is an incredible player and he has proven he can win the big game at home, the verdict is still out about going on the road and doing it when the entire world is watching.
So when you ask me who I will take as my quarterback in this matchup of two top five teams this Saturday in Death Valley. I will take Deshaun Watson because he has been here before, multiple times, and unlike everyone else, I haven’t forgotten that.