When you’re making the money Watson makes and playing the way Watson has played, the criticism will come. Loudly.
Monday, he completed a woeful 22 of 40 pass attempts for 235 yards (5.9 yards per attempt), with a touchdown and an interception while taking a whopping six sacks. Not only did Watson struggle to complete passes, but many of his throws weren’t close, sailing well out of bounds or spiking the dirt in front of a receiver. On the final play, he missed Donovan Peoples-Jones by a good five yards — had the ball been better, the ref might have been more inclined to call a penalty.
Through two weeks, Watson ranks tied with Kenny Pickett for 32nd out of 33 QBs with at least 25 pass attempts in EPA per dropback (-.45), per Next Gen Stats — only Zach Wilson is worse. Watson ranks 31st in completion percentage over expected (-8.6). His yards per attempt (5.6) ranks 31st. His passer rating (69.1), also 31. His completion percentage ranks dead-last at 55.1. And his nine sacks taken rank tied for fifth-most with Russell Wilson (behind rookie C.J. Stroud, Daniel Jones, Justin Fields and Sam Howell).
“I told everyone in our offense, the whole team, I’m gonna do better for this team, for this organization, so we can win games like that,” Watson said. “I’m fine with taking the criticism, and I will be better.”
After sitting out all of 2021 and serving an 11-game suspension following sexual assault allegations, Watson struggled last year in the final six tilts. The thought — nay, the hope — was Watson simply needed to knock off the rust to return to the playmaking form we saw in Houston. The Browns made a $230 million investment, believing he would.
Instead, it’s more of the same through two weeks.
Watson fits Kevin Stefanski’s offense like a train engine into a Ford Pinto. The parts do not match.
When there aren’t head-scratching play calls, Watson is easily spooked by the pass rush, repeatedly dropping his eyes or fleeing a decent pocket early. They’re signs of a QB lacking rhythm and trust.
Stefanski placed the blame on the entire operation for the limp output Monday.
“We just didn’t play well as an offense,” he said. “There are some throws I’m sure he wants back. There are some play calls I want back. Really just not good enough as a team.”
With Nick Chubb lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered Monday night, the pressure on Watson to put it together only heightens.
He’s paid to play to the level of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, etc. Right now, he’s playing closer to that of Zach Wilson.