Defensive end J.J. Watt, maybe the Houston Texans' all-time great player, has experienced NFL pain all too many times. Often, during his decade in Houston, that pain came in the form of injury and rehab. Often, it came in the form of his Texans being good ... but not good enough.
In 2021, he changed his employer.
But the pain hasn't changed.
"It was a massive failure,'' he said following a 34-11 NFL Playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, ending his Arizona Cardinals' promising season and forcing Watt - who made a miraculous recovery from injury to allow himself to re-appear on the field here - to once again try to look forward to next year. "I mean, from what we were capable of doing, and from what we showed we can do, to today, there's no other way to describe it then as a failure.
A bit less than a year ago, Watt announced his decision to depart the losing Texans organization to start anew. Working in Arizona would give him a chance to pursue a Super Bowl dream as part of a roster seemingly capable of that.
But, in the end, "It was, for me, it was embarrassing,'' he said. "We put up an embarrassing performance. There's no other way to put it, really.''
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Arizona's defense allowed Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford to complete more than 75 percent of his passes - while doing so with so much Rams offensive efficiency that Stafford only had to attempt 17 throws. In his first playoff win (after a decade of failure with the Detroit Lions), he was especially effective when Watt's defense tried to blitz, as there, Stafford was 7-of-8 for a season-high 148 yards and a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp.
The Cardinals offense, led by quarterback Kyler Murray, also stumbled, with turnovers helping to put Los Angeles ahead 21-0 early in the game.
Watt finished with three total tackles, one being recorded for a loss.
His deal with Arizona is for two years, after which time, with the five-year waiting period, his deal will be with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But at 32, Watt surely knows he's running out of time to be a champion
"I was fine, (my) shoulder held up fine," said Watt of the post-surgery concerns. "Feels good, no problems."
Unfortunately, J.J. Watt cannot say the same things about his Cardinals' loss, or his Super Bowl chase.