By Terrance Turner
Feb. 12, 2021
Defensive end J.J. Watt has asked for (and received) a release from the Houston Texans. Watt announced the news in a video posted to his Twitter account, explaining that he personally met with the McNair family to request a release from the team. “I have sat down with the McNair family, and I have asked them for my release, and we have mutually agreed to part ways.”
Watt reflected on his time in Houston, which was memorable on both professional and personal levels. “I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it,” he said. “The city of Houston’s been unbelievable to me; it’s where I met my wife. It’s where I’ve met lifelong friends, and my teammates. I’ve had incredible coaches and training staff, and equipment staff and cafeteria workers […] the connection is special, and I will never, ever take it for granted,” Watt said. “I just want you guys to now that I love you, I appreciate you, I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL. Thank you, Houston. I love you.”
After ten tumultuous seasons, Watt’s time in Houston is over.
The release comes after a memorable career (so far). Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks, with 101. (Since 2011, only Broncos defender Von Miller has had more sacks, according to ESPN.. He won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2016). Watt is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. (Only Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald have achieved that.) He was also voted the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year, after raising over $37 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Watt’s time in Houston, though stellar, was marked by injuries — and in recent months by frustration with the franchise. After trading away its best receiver (DeAndre Hopkins), the Texans franchise came under fire by pundits and fans. And after firing head coach Bill O’Brien (after a disastrous 1-4 start), the Texans lost. And lost. And lost some more.
Weeks ago, the Texans lost in a blowout: 36-7, to the Chicago Bears. That loss officially eliminated them from playoff contention. The week before, the Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts. With less than 30 seconds left, Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee fumbled at the two-yard line. It was the second time this season the team has lost to Indianapolis after a goal-line fumble. The Texans lost to the Colts, 27-20.
Later, they lost again, to the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Deshaun Watson had his shoulder grabbed by Bengal Sam Hubbard, causing a strip-sack with 1:28 left. Cincinnati sealed their historic road win with a field goal. Despite Watson’s three touchdowns, the Texans lost, 37-31. It was their fourth straight loss. They went 4-11.
Defensive end J.J. Watt was visibly frustrated after the loss. In a postgame press conference, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year delivered an angry, emotional rant peppered with curses. He expressed recognition of his privileged position and sympathy for Texans fans. But Watt also called out his teammates for a lack of professionalism.
“We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money,” Watt said. “If you can’t come in, put in work in the building, go out to the practice field, work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not be here. This is a job. We’re getting paid a whole lot of money. There are a whole lot of people that watch us and invest their time and money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of s–t. And they care about it; they care every single week. We’re in Week 16, and we’re 4-11, and there’s fans that watch this game, that show up to the stadium, that put in time and energy and effort and care about this. So if you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there to win, you shouldn’t be here.
Because this is a privilege. It’s the greatest job in the world. You get to go out and play a game. If you can’t care enough, even when you’re in week 17 — even when you’re trash, when you’re 4-11 — if you can’t go out there and give it everything you have and try your hardest, that’s bulls–t,” he said. “There are people every week that still Tweet you, that still come up to you and say, ‘Hey, we’re still rooting for you, we’re still behind you.’ They have no reason whatsoever to. We stink. But they care, and they still want to win and they still want you to be great. That’s why. Those people aren’t getting paid. We’re being paid handsomely. That’s why. That’s who I feel the most bad for, are our fans, the people who care so deeply in this city, and love it and who truly want it to be great. And it’s not. And that sucks as a player, to know we’re not giving them what they deserve.”
UPDATE (March 2, 2021): J.J. Watt has signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. News of the signing broke yesterday, reported by outlets including ESPN and the NFL Network. This move reunites him with former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who was a wide receiver for the Texans before a controversial trade last year. Today, in an introductory press conference, Watt was asked about Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who remains in a standoff with the team after informing them he no longer wants to play for them.
“”I love Deshaun. We speak often… He’s a special human being. The one thing I want for Deshaun Watson is for him to be happy,” Watt said. “He deserves it, and I want him to be happy. Whatever that looks like for him, that’s what I want for him.”