The Deshaun Watson saga has been ongoing for nearly a year and a half. While the most significant obstacles have been cleared, the quarterback is still not out of the woods. He may not be going to prison, but Watson is still waiting to know if he will be able to start the season on time.
The NFL is actively investigating 22 lawsuits filed by massage therapists accusing the quarterback of sexual assault and misconduct. Two Texas grand juries have declined to indict Watson, but the NFL could still penalize him for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
“If they're going to do anything before 2022, the clock is ticking. Loudly. It's ticking loudly because there's a new procedure now. The league basically indicts a player now and then there's a separate person, a disciplnary officer, hired and paid by the league in the union who takes it from there and pushes it through after a hearing and then after a decision is made on discipline."
Florio continued, saying the commissioner has the power to punish the quarterback as much as he wants as long as a punishment is meant to be dealt:
"The commissioner has appeal jurisdiction and final say and at the end of the day, it's still up to whatever the commissioner wants. As long as the disciplinary officer administers any amount of discipline, the commissioner can take it and expand it into whatever he wants."
Florio went on to explain just how big of a difference the commissioner can make in his ruling:
"So, for example, the league could say we [want him] to be suspended for the full year. The disciplinary officer could say, 'Okay, my final ruling is one game,' and the commissioner on appeal can say, ‘Nah, it's a year.' That's how meaningless this external process is. Unless the disciplinary officer says no discipline at all, the commissioner can take whatever is implemented and make it whatever the commissioner wants with no further appeal rights."
Florio wrapped up his point, explaining that the process is not quick, but the clock is ticking:
"But to get there, it's not just something you flip a switch with, it takes time. It takes time [and] this season's gonna be here before you know it; it's 17 weeks away.”
Deshaun Watson's NFL career
Deshaun Watson missed the 2021 NFL season, but he was playing like a franchise quarterback before that. According to Pro Football Reference, it started in 2017 when he was drafted 12th overall by the Houston Texans. His rookie season was short, as he only played in seven games.
In 2018, Watson ran a breakout campaign, putting his name on the map in a big way. He went 11-5, completing 68.3 percent of his passes and throwing for 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In 2019, he proved that 2018 was not a fluke. He went 10-5 in games he started, throwing for 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
2020 remains an enigma, as it was Watson's best statistical season in the NFL but his worst winning record by far. In 16 games, he went 4-12. However, he completed more than 70 percent of his throws, earning nearly 5,000 yards of offense, 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Will the quarterback get a chance to prove that 2020 was an anomaly?