By the time a player for the 49ers is doing an interview with a former player for the Bengals insisting that a present player for the Texans demand he become a future player for the Jets ...
We have devolved beyond "silly season.''
This is now insulting. To you.
It's no secret that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is not happy with the organization. But ... Open up most any sports media site and you will find rumor upon rumor claiming inside knowledge that "Deshaun wants out'' and "Why he wants out'' and most troubling, "Where he wants to/should/will go.''
This deluge of misinformation and baseless rumors is an insult to Watson. It's an insult to the Texans. And most troubling, it's an insult to you.
What We Know
The hard facts are that Watson was told - due not to his ego but rather to his position as the locker-room leader - that he would be kept in the loop throughout the general manager and head coaching hiring processes. And while there may have been some base-touching, it is generally understood that his involvement was far more minimal than he had initially been led to believe it would be.
As such, he is unhappy with the front office. This unhappiness has manifested itself with several cryptic tweets, a crypic tweet from his agent, and an outburst by former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson on Twitter where he said the quarterback must stand his ground - rallying a fan base around Johnson's words and largely against controversial team exec Jack Easterby.
We believe that inside NRG Stadium, some officials have actually thought about the unthinkable. We believe that other NFL teams have reached out with inquiries.
This is it. There are no other hard facts at this point.
What Is Being Reported
Hour after hour there is an endless stream of headlines pouring out from around the nation about Watson's future, supposed trade requests and discussions, why his time in Houston is over, and why the organization as a whole is a disaster.
But upon closer inspection, many of these headlines are nothing more than speculation - easy-to-type, headline-grabbing speculation that feeds off of the frustration of Watson and wades in the emotions from the fans who follow him.
And this is where it gets dangerous.
The Danger Of Rumors
Rumors are often motivated by greed.
Every source has its own agenda. This could be an agent trying to gain their client more leverage within a situation, a teammate trying to force change within their team, a former employee trying to get revenge on their former employer by creating turmoil, or a journalist baiting for clicks. (I think there's a term for that.)
This probably isn't necessary, but ... Full disclosure: TexansDaily.com's staff is motivated by its love for sports and its devotion to covering the Texans - every single aspect of them. That does include, much to the chagrin of some of you, stories about the "oddsmakers' view'' on a trade. Or a legitimate reporter like Chris Mortensen mentioning the Dolphins, at which time our best-in-the-business staff produces art of Watson in a Miami uniform.
All that may be nauseating (as the above art of Watson in a Jets uniform, and the above idea of Deshaun in Dallas, surely are). But the concept of a "Watson trade'' is, if handled professionally, news.
And covering news .. every aspect of it ... is how we satisfy our love, how we satisfy our devotion, and how we satisfy our landlord on the first of every month.
Beyond that? All claims that are reported without a named or substantiated source must be taken with a pinch of salt. There may be truth to them. But they may also prove to be baseless attempts to disrupt an organization for whatever reason best suits the "source.''
Or worse, they could simply be figments of a typist's imagination.
This is why, when Pro Football Talk first reported the idea of Watson wanting a trade, we rather vigorously attacked PFT's credibility due to its track record of "breaking trade news.'' (Its track record is poor; see below.)
In the end, though, the essence of PFT's "gossipy'' report has turned out to be accurate enough. And our insistence on fact-based reporting, which pushed our skepticism of PFT's story, now means we owe Florio lunch. (At Lefty's.)
Then there are the aforementioned cryptic tweets by Watson and anyone in his inner circle.
These can indeed be read as jabs at the Texans organization. Or, they can be interpreted as song lyrics, philosophical thinking, or nothing at all.
This panic-inducing bombardment of speculation and overanalyzing of everything Watson and his inner circle communicate either verbally or via social media is dangerous both for his reputation, the situation between Watson and the Texans, and for the sports sanity of Houstonians.
Fans Deserve Better
What many fail to recognize is the damage these endless and baseless rumors do to those fans who have followed their team for decades. Fans like you, who invest time and money and soul into your local team, many of us relying on sports to grant us a brief reprieve from the monotony of everyday life.
Yes, this real-life football situation seems fragile.
Houston's football future rests on the shoulders of its star quarterback, a generational talent who would be near impossible to replace. And the team appears at the moment to be doing too little to soothe the problem.
Nevertheless, our profession must be better about feeding you blurred lines between "I think'' and "I know.'' Is it a "story'' when Richard Sherman does an interview insisting Watson move to the Jets? Maybe. But as I mentioned above, consider the motivation. Ah, Sherman's coordinator in San Francisco was Robert Saleh, and they are pals. And Saleh is now the head coach where?
The Jets. Ah. Got it?
Your challenge, as a sports consumer, is to try to see these blurred lines clearly. Ensuring the realities of what can spring from the Texans/Watson clash is part of fandom. So is photoshopping. So are arguments. So, even, is educated speculation. And informed opinion. All part of fandom.
But being lied to, being manipulated and being tricked should not be.
CONTINUE READING: Houston Texans Coach Tracker