The Cleveland Browns can only wait while Deshaun Watson heals
The Browns are continuing to play the waiting game with quarterback Deshaun Watson, who’s rehabbing a lingering rotator cuff shoulder injury. Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto said it’s been tough for the team, especially head coach Kevin Stefanski, to manage the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Watson.
“For quite a while, Stefanski was asked, 'Is (Watson) going to be suspended? How long will he be suspended for?' All those things. And that turned out to be 11 games. Then he was asked, 'How will he play when he gets back after missing 11 games this year and sitting out the whole previous season?' And, 'Do you think this was a good idea?' A lot of these questions probably should have been answered by ownership, but in the NFL, they tend to throw it all on the coach,” Pluto said.
Pluto said it’s been a long waiting game when it comes to Watson. He’s played in six games since the team signed him to a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract in March 2022.
“Just as Browns fans have been waiting to see how will Watson play and when will he finally play, well, the coach was in the same situation. You know, it's almost like there was an old French play by Samuel Beckett, 'Waiting for Godot.' It's been like, 'Waiting for Watson.' And here we are 18 months later,” Pluto said.
The team has considered this season Watson’s first official one in Cleveland, after he was suspended 11 games last year. Pluto said so far, it’s been tough to gauge whether Watson is any good.
“When they traded for him, he was 27 years old. He had made three Pro Bowls. He was considered an up-and-coming quarterback. But that's a while ago. I mean, the last time that he had a good year was 2020. We're really getting quite a bit away from when he was good,” Pluto said.
Watson this week defended himself against critics who don't think he's pushing hard enough to return from his shoulder injury. Pluto said he believes Watson.
“I think he's really hurt. I don't think he just wants to sit there, get paid and get criticized. I really don't believe that. But I also know when you're hurt, you're hurt," Pluto said. "And some people say, 'Well, Baker Mayfield, a couple of years ago, played with a bad left shoulder.' Well, number one, he threw with his right arm. But number two, he shouldn't have played with that either. And it's the same thing with Watson.”
And for the Browns, there is no backup plan when it comes to quarterback.
“Basically, if I'm the Browns, if I got to keep (Watson) out for another month or whatever it takes to get this thing straightened out, that's what I'm doing. You made a long-term investment. I mean, I got an email from a couple of readers who said, ‘Well, what's plan B if Watson doesn't work out?’ There is no plan B,” Pluto said.
The Browns are 4-3 heading into Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals (1-7). Pluto believes they can win if they get back to playing tough defense and kicker Dustin Hopkins continues to make his field goals.
“Try to win the game ugly and survive until Watson gets ready so you can find out what he has, Pluto said. "But it's a difficult situation for the coach because you like to just write that quarterback in every week and then build your game plan around him."