When new Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson took to the field against the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday evening, he received hefty boos from fans in Duval.
This is to be expected given the off-field circumstances surrounding Watson. Prior to Cleveland acquiring the multi-time Pro Bowler in a trade with the Houston Texans, he was accused of sexual misconduct from north of 20 women.
Once grand juries in Texas opted against recommending charges against Watson this past spring, Cleveland jumped at the chance of acquiring the talented signal caller. It then signed him to a record five-year, $230 million contract — fully guaranteed.
The backdrop here is a six-game suspension Watson is expected to start serving Week 1 pending an NFL appeal pushing for a longer-term ban.
In talking to the media after Friday’s win over Jacksonville, Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio opened up about Watson being booed. He did not hold back, clearly indicating that Cleveland’s locker room has his back.
Deshaun Watson will continue facing the wrath of opposing fans
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Watson will be public enemy No. 1 for Cleveland road games this season.
The drawn-out process that led to Watson settling civil cases with north of 20 women accusing him of sexual assault was one of the biggest news stories of the NFL offseason. While he is not facing criminal charges, the allegations are certainly damning.
Cleveland also faced push back for acquiring Watson mere days after criminal charges were not sought against the former first-round pick. The organization knows full well that it is under a microscope right now.
But from an on-field perspective, the Browns found Watson worth the risk given his track record of success. Prior to sitting out the 2021 season, he was among the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
- Deshaun Watson stats (2020): 70% completion, 4,823 passing yards (NFL high), 444 rushing yards, 36 total TD, 7 INT
The NFL is seeking a longer-term ban than the six-game suspension an arbitrator levied against Watson last month.
Pending the outcome of said appeal, Watson’s regular-season debut with Cleveland could be delayed even further. Once it does happen, fans on the road will let him know about it.
As for Friday’s preseason game against Jacksonville, Watson completed a mere 1-of-5 passes for seven yards while showing a tremendous amount of rust in his first action in 19 months.