NFL Network’s annual “Top 100 Players” series tends to get people bristled, arguing over who should be higher, lower or off the list entirely.
But with one of the network’s selections in this year’s “Top 100 Players of 2020” show, the buzz could be even louder than usual.
Coming in at No. 18 overall is none other than Deshaun Watson. None other than the Houston Texans quarterback who currently is in training-camp limbo while his legal situation plays out.
Here’s the video in question. Thoughts?
NFL Network’s handling of Deshaun Watson
“Nobody knows when Deshaun Watson will take the field again,” it begins.
Our first thought after watching this: Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the production meeting when the Watson subject came up. The guess here is that they had quite the long chat when they got to his name — and with so little actually known about his situation.
Was he higher than 18 originally? (It’s plausible, although he was 20th on last summer’s list.)
Did they discuss not putting him on the list? (We’d be shocked if they didn’t at least discuss it.)
And how did they arrive at how they’d handle the script?
Notice the format is different from the other player segments. In about 80 seconds, we get narrated highlights — and dark, brooding synthesizers in the Jan Hammer tradition — but no player interviews. Typically, NFLN will grab SOTs (sound on tape) from 2-3 other players to talk about how great each Top 100 selection is. But not for Watson’s.
The video is fairly awkward, but we suspect that whatever they did was going to come off as slightly obtuse at best. But it’s a football list. Of the top 100 players from last season — of which Watson is irrefutably among. It’s not worth debating that particular point.
There are alleged victims who claim Watson is a predator, and the world awaits the results of the civil cases and any potential criminal charges that could come down. We take those claims extremely seriously.
It’s understandable why Watson’s presence on the list will upset some people. Maybe it feels like a gratuitous celebration of his talent without specifically mentioning what’s being alleged.
But it’s the NFL, and their handling of Watson’s discipline — basically to let him twist in the wind until there’s some sort of resolution — is a pretty good picture of their stance here.
They’re aware of the more than 20 accusers, of course, but it’s the same vein of approach with the “Top 100” list. They’ll keep him on it while giving just enough acknowledgement of why it’s even up for debate.
There’s even a chance Watson could play this season. No, he hasn’t really practiced, and a lot has to go in Watson’s favor somewhat soon. But it’s at least possible.
We could have done without the closing line, frankly: “The skill is no mystery, everything else is.” It’s not really offensive; it’s more ham-handed than anything.
But is this something that’s going to get us all worked up? Not really. Ambivalence might be the word.
Watson is a tremendous football player — he showed us that again last season — who is being accused of some heinous things. Those two things can be concurrently true. The matter remains very much up in the air. It’s possible he’s cleared. He could go to jail. Neither really can be ruled out at this point.
So maybe they’re like everyone else now: in wait-and-see mode. On the list of “bad things the NFL has done,” this one just doesn’t register all that highly.
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