Since midway through the 2011 season, J.J. Watt has been the face of the Texans, the reason people tuned in to watch the team. He has been one of the biggest stars in the league both on and off the field. It was a crushing blow when he went down with another season-ending injury last week. He missed all but three games last season, and basically played four plus games this year.
Watt's presence is huge, and the Texans scrambled to make the playoffs without him last year, mostly because the defense was phenomenal.
This year, the team has a new leader, and he is on the other side of the ball.
The torch was probably going to be passed sooner rather than later, but Watt's injury hastened the change.
Deshaun Watson is now the face of the Texans.
Six games into his NFL career.
Watson led the Texans to an easy 33-17 win over Cleveland on Sunday. Yes, the Browns are terrible, but Watson continues to impress.
With most NFL teams, the quarterback is the face of the franchise. The Texans have had a lot of ugly faces over the years, and none of them was a player you would spend money to buy their jersey or pay to see play. None would be a player that the rest of the nation would tune in to see.
Watson is all that. He is a legitimate star in the making and came in with a substantial buzz after leading Clemson to the national title, beating mighty Alabama. Since he has taken over the offense, the Texans have been nothing short of dynamic, scoring 30 or more points in four straight games.
There are so many reasons to like Watson. He's smart. A good person off the field and an exciting player on it. He is an accurate passer, and his mobility has opened up the Texans offense and made Bill O'Brien look like the genius we were told he was. Finally, the Texans O looks like an NFL unit, and O'Brien's playcalling has been creative and effective.
And Watson makes it all go. His threat to run creates lanes for his backs. His elusiveness in the pocket and awareness keeps plays and drives alive.
His numbers Sunday were not jaw dropping (17 of 28, 225 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception; 5 rushes for 24 yards) but he continues to produce points and limit negative plays. His accuracy was not as sharp against the Browns, and he had some throws he would like to get back, especially the pick six. But for the most part he continues to avoid negative plays that plagued the offense in the past. He has yet to fumble the football. He has 15 TD passes and just five picks. He has also run for two touchdowns. He was sacked just once on Sunday.
That he did it against the Browns had to sting for Cleveland fans, since the Browns — who have had quarterback issues longer than the Texans — traded the pick that became Watson.
You have to wonder they were thinking. And what the Bears were thinking when they took Mitchell Trubisky.
Would Watson have been as effective in Cleveland or Chicago?
Probably. He has the it factor. He may be the best QB in the city since the man he honored by wearing a No. 1 Warren Moon jersey before the game.
There will be hiccups. Bad games. Bad plays, like the interception. He still has much to learn, but he picks things up fast. The Texans have long sought The Man at quarterback. They have that. And he is well on his way to being a star.
And the new face of the franchise.
This story originally appeared on SportsMap.