Pursuing Watson would present complications for WFT, Rivera originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Football Team is stuck in an arid desert, but instead of searching for water Ron Rivera's squad is desperate to find a quarterback capable of lifting its offense and the franchise overall to new heights.
Deshaun Watson is one such passer with the talents to do so, and it sure seems like Watson could be had in a trade with the Houston Texans this offseason.
So, Watson's the answer, right? He's the guy to quench Washington's thirst, a sensation that hasn't been satisfied for years?
It's not that simple, of course. In fact, Watson's current situation — 22 women have accused him of sexual harassment and his standing with the NFL is far from clear — is something any organization interested in acquiring him must ponder. But for Washington, it's especially complicated.
Ever since taking over the Burgundy and Gold, Rivera has stated time and time again his desire to improve Washington's culture. He's been hellbent on getting the right kind of player in his locker room and equally as determined on dismissing the ones he deemed wrong for his roster (see his immediate release of Derrius Guice in August 2020 following domestic violence accusations as well as his expulsion of Dwayne Haskins late in the 2020 campaign as examples).
In a recent press conference, Rivera was asked if pursuing Watson could be detrimental to that cause. Yes, Watson's name could be cleared or another solution to his legal matters could come to fruition soon, but until that happens (or if it never happens), would making a push for a player in the Texans star's position feel hypocritical?
"I don't know because, again, you gotta understand what the circumstances are," Rivera said Tuesday about the topic while declining to discuss Watson specifically. "To look at certain situations, certain circumstances, you'd like to hope that your culture inside is strong enough to put their arm around people and help them get things going in the right direction too. So we'll see."
Rivera's cultural rebuild isn't the only factor at play here.
Owner Dan Snyder once reached a $1.6 million settlement with a former female employee after that employee accused Snyder of sexual misconduct in 2009. Washington's overall workplace environment during Snyder's ownership tenure has been also seriously scrutinized in recent years with numerous women coming forward to detail their experiences with sexual harassment and misconduct while working for the team in multiple Washington Post stories.
Snyder and his wife, Tanya, who is co-CEO of the organization, have adjusted its leadership structure and attempted to reshape Washington's image since those reports first surfaced. Trading for Watson before any sort of clarity on his status would very likely be interpreted as a move that contradicts the Snyders' changes.
"We most certainly will do our due diligence," Rivera said about checking in on Watson. "That’s the thing that we have to do more so than anything else is really take a look at all those situations, circumstances and really kind of go through the process. Obviously, we'd have to find out what the league has going on and saying with things and situations like that. It'd be no different than any other position that we've gone with. We'll go through a very diligent process."
An update on Watson could occur at any point. His past season in Houston came and went without much news, but now that the NFL is in the postseason, the quiet part of the calendar is approaching. Perhaps something breaks that resolves the tangled issue one way or another.
In the meantime, however, Rivera will have to examine where Watson fits into Washington's hunt for a signal caller. Pro football is a place where many have no problem looking away from unsavory stories in order to increase wins, yet Rivera and Washington are under a unique microscope.
After being eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17, Rivera acknowledged that his group must take a "big step forward" in his third year in charge. Watson has the skill to lead that effort. There's also the potential, though, that Watson's arrival would push the team's off-field perception a big step backward. The risk might simply outweigh the reward.