HOUSTON – Star quarterback Deshaun Watson has requested a trade from the Houston Texans, a person familiar with the move told The Associated Press.
The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the request and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Thursday.
Watson has a no-trade clause in his four-year, $156 million contract, so he could have some control over where he might be dealt.
A source told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that the Texans had hired David Culley as their new coach to replace Bill O’Brien, who was fired after an 0-4 start and replaced by interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
The same source who told The AP about the trade request said Watson made the ask before Culley’s hire. He has been unhappy with the direction of the team for some time and Sports Illustrated reported weeks ago that Watson was upset the team didn’t initially request to interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for its coaching vacancy.
The Texans eventually interviewed Bieniemy, as well as Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Buffalo assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell, former Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis and Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady before landing on Culley — the only African American among the seven head coaches hired this offseason. The only other minority candidate who was hired as a head coach this offseason was the New York Jets' Robert Saleh, the league's first Muslim American head coach.
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, wasn’t just disgruntled about the way Houston went about its coaching search. He was also upset that owner Cal McNair did not take his opinion into account when hiring general manager Nick Caserio, according to reports from ESPN and the NFL Network.
The Texans, who had years of woes at quarterback before drafting Watson, don't want to part with the talented 25-year-old who led the NFL in yards passing this season. But so far they have been unable to change his mind about his desire to leave.
They traded up to select Watson with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft after he led Clemson to its first national title since 1981. Houston was desperate to find a franchise quarterback after starting eight players at the position in the three seasons before he was drafted.
Watson started the season as the backup to Tom Savage but took over at halftime of the opener and started the next six games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in practice.
He was healthy for the start of the 2018 season and has started all but one game in the three seasons since, developing into one of the league’s most dynamic quarterbacks. He was one of the only bright spots for the Texans this season as they finished with a 4-12 record after winning the AFC South the previous two years.
Watson finished with the best numbers of his career despite losing superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins in an offseason trade and playing without Will Fuller for the last five games when the receiver was suspended for using performance enhancers.
His 4,823 yards passing and 33 touchdown passes both set franchise records. He also set a team mark by completing 70.2 percent of his passes. He had 10 300-yard passing games to give him 20 in his career.
Watson ranked second on the team with 444 yards rushing, the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,800 yards passing and 400 yards rushing in a season.
Watson has found support from many players around the league in recent weeks concerning his desire to be traded, including from one of the greatest players in franchise history.
Just after the season, former Texans receiver Andre Johnson, who was drafted in the franchise’s second year and had 13,597 yards receiving in 12 seasons in Houston, tweeted his support for Watson. Johnson criticized Jack Easterby, the team’s executive vice president of football operations. Johnson is the only player in Houston’s Ring of Honor and worked as a special adviser to the team before stepping away from that role before this season.
Some believe that Easterby, a former chaplain for the Patriots, has gained too much power since O’Brien, who was also the team’s general manager, was fired in October.
“If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground,” Johnson tweeted on Jan. 12. “The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”
If the Texans can't repair their relationship with Watson they'll be faced with an even more massive rebuilding process.