Watson made his first career start on September 14, his 22nd birthday, in an away game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished with 125 passing yards, 67 rushing yards and a 49-yard rushing touchdown as the Texans won 13–9. In Week 4 against the Tennessee Titans, he completed 25 of 34 passes for 283 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception while also rushing for 24 yards and a touchdown as the Texans won 57–14. His five total scores tied the NFL rookie touchdown record. He also became the first rookie to pass for at least four touchdowns and rush for one touchdown in a game since Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in 1961. His performance earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Watson followed up his Week 4 performance with another great outing against the Kansas City Chiefs. In the 42–34 loss, Watson finished 16-of-31 for 261 yards and five touchdown passes, tying an NFL rookie record for touchdown passes thrown in a single game. He also rushed for 31 yards. In Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks, Watson posted his first game with over 400 passing yards. He finished with 402 passing yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions and 67 rushing yards, though the Texans lost 41–38. Watson threw 16 touchdowns in the month of October, setting the NFL record for touchdown passes by a rookie in a calendar month. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month and the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October.
Derrick Deshaun Watson (born September 14, 1995) is an American football quarterback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Clemson, where he led the team to a national championship in 2016. Watson was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
Watson was born in Gainesville, Georgia, on September 14, 1995, to Deann Watson and Don Richardson. He attended Gainesville High School from the fall of 2010 and played for the school's Red Elephants football team. Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller had planned to start a rising junior at quarterback to execute his spread offense, but Watson won the starting spot, becoming Miller's first-ever freshman starting quarterback.
Watson finished the 2020 season with 4,823 passing yards (the most in the NFL), 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. His season was, by all major statistical measures, the best in franchise history, leading in passing touchdowns, passing yards and passer rating. He became the first player to lead the league in passing yards on a team with at least 12 losses since Jeff George of the Oakland Raiders in 1997.
On November 2, Watson tore his ACL on a non-contact play during practice, prematurely ending his rookie season. In seven games (six starts) during his rookie year, Watson amassed 1,699 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 269 yards and two touchdowns. On November 8, Watson underwent successful surgery on his right knee to repair his ACL, and no further damage was reported. Watson was ranked 50th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018 list. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team, becoming the second Texans quarterback to receive the award since David Carr had done so in 2002.
In the fall of 2016, Watson became the first player since Jason White in 2003–2004 to win the Davey O'Brien Award in consecutive years. He was also named winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was the first repeat winner of the Manning Award. For the second consecutive year, Watson was named one of the five Heisman Trophy candidates, along with Michigan's Jabrill Peppers, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook and Louisville's Lamar Jackson. He again came up short, as Louisville's Lamar Jackson was awarded the Heisman Trophy, finishing with nearly twice as many first-place votes as had Watson.
In 2006, when Watson was 11, Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn donated a home to Watson's family through Dunn's charity Homes for the Holidays, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. In 2017, Watson donated his first NFL game check of approximately $27,000 to three NRG Stadium cafeteria employees affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Watson received offers from numerous colleges before verbally committing to Clemson University on February 1, 2012. He was ranked as the top quarterback recruit for the 2014 class by ESPN 300.
Watson enrolled at Clemson in January 2014. During his high-school career, Watson had worn #4, but at Clemson, that number had been retired after quarterback Steve Fuller graduated. However, Fuller allowed Watson to wear the number. Watson entered his true freshman season as the backup to starter Cole Stoudt, but still received extensive playing time. Through three games, he completed 29 of 41 passes for 479 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, outperforming Stoudt. Watson was named the Tigers' starter on September 21. In Watson's first career start against the North Carolina Tar Heels, he set a school record with six touchdown passes and threw for 435 yards en route to a 50–35 victory.
On October 11, 2014, Watson broke a bone in his right hand in the first quarter of a game against the Louisville Cardinals. As a result of the injury, he missed games against Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest. He returned for a game against Georgia Tech only to suffer an LCL strain, missing most of the game. He did not play against Georgia State the following week, but led Clemson to a victory over state rival South Carolina the following week. It was revealed that Watson had played the game with a torn ACL in his left knee. He underwent surgery the Friday before Clemson's bowl game against Oklahoma.
In 2015, Watson led Clemson to an undefeated 12–0 regular season and a #1 ranking in the polls. After the regular season, the Tigers qualified for the ACC Championship Game, facing off against #10 North Carolina. Watson threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers to a 45–37 win, Clemson's first ACC championship since 2011. Watson was also named the ACC Championship Game MVP.
On November 8, 2016, Watson, along with three other Clemson players, Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott and Mike Williams, declared for the NFL Draft. In December, Watson graduated with a degree in communications after three years at Clemson.
On May 12, 2017, the Texans signed Watson to a four-year, $13.84 million contract featuring an $8.21 million signing bonus. Watson made his first regular-season appearance on September 10, 2017, against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He entered the game after Tom Savage was benched at halftime and played for the remainder of the game. In the third quarter, he threw his first NFL touchdown, a four-yard pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He finished with 102 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception as the Texans lost 29–7.
After having a productive rookie season cut short by injury, Watson guided the Texans to consecutive division titles in 2018 and 2019 and led the league in passing yards in 2020. He also received Pro Bowl honors in each of his three seasons as Houston's primary starter. As of August 2023, he is fourth in career completion percentage (minimum 1,500 attempts) and is third in all-time career passer rating.
On January 21, 2019, Watson was named to his first Pro Bowl, replacing the Super Bowl-bound Tom Brady. He was ranked 51st by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2019 list.
On March 16, 2021, a Houston massage therapist filed a civil lawsuit delivered by attorney Tony Buzbee against Watson, claiming that Watson had touched her with the tip of his erect penis while asking her for sex during a visit to her home for treatment in March 2020. Watson vehemently denied Buzbee's claims, stating that "I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect." According to the suit, the massage therapist immediately ended the session and cried after the incident. Two additional NFL players contacted the massage therapist several weeks later on Watson's recommendation. The suit also claims that Watson later reached out to the massage therapist and apologized for his actions.
On April 28, 2020, the Texans exercised the fifth-year option on Watson's contract. On September 5, Watson signed a four-year, $177.5 million contract extension with $111 million in guarantees, keeping him under contract through the 2025 season. This marked the second-most lucrative contract in NFL history after that of Aaron Rodgers.
The next day, another massage therapist represented by Buzbee claimed that Watson had met her at the Houstonian Hotel in August 2020 and completely undressed and refused to cover up, directing her to massage his anus and penis and making a movement that caused her to touch his penis. The therapist also claims that Watson had only paid half of the charges due for her services.
In Week 15 against the Indianapolis Colts, Watson threw for 373 yards and two touchdowns during a 20–27 loss. Watson was fined $7,500 by the Texans in December 2020 for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols after he and several teammates gathered at the opening of his new restaurant without wearing face masks. In Week 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Watson threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns during a 37–31 loss. In Week 17 against the Tennessee Titans, Watson threw for 365 yards, three touchdowns and one interception but lost 41–38.
On March 18, 2021, a third civil lawsuit was filed against Watson, alleging that he had forced a massage therapist to perform oral sex on him before she blacked out in an office building in December 2020. The therapist claims that after Watson left, she was shaken and defecated on herself. Also, on March 18, the NFL announced that it would investigate the sexual assault allegations made against Watson.
Despite not being officially suspended or placed on any reserve list, Watson was ruled out for every Texans game played in 2021 for "non-injury reasons/personal matter."
In 2021, Watson was sued by more than two dozen female massage therapists for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Watson has denied any wrongdoing despite settling 20 claims of sexual misconduct. Disagreements with the Texans' front office and multiple sexual-misconduct lawsuits kept Watson out for the entire 2021 season and eventually led to a trade to the Browns in 2022, where he signed a five-year contract worth $230 million, one of the largest contracts in NFL history.
On March 19, 2021, Buzbee claimed that nine more civil suits had been filed against Watson (for a total of 12) and that 22 women contacted his office regarding Watson's conduct while receiving massages. Buzbee requested that the Houston Police Department and the Harris County, Texas, district attorney investigate the situation and pursue criminal charges against Watson. One of the nine new civil suits alleges that Watson attempted to kiss a woman forcibly, and another suit alleges that he had attempted to assault the same woman on two separate occasions.
On March 22, 2021, a 14th lawsuit was filed by a woman who called Watson a "serial predator". The incident allegedly occurred in California, just the second of the 14 allegations to occur outside the Houston area. The traveling massage therapist alleged that when she arrived at the address that Watson had provided, he led her to a room and "locked the doors behind him". After Watson allegedly "forced Plaintiff's hand onto his penis" during the massage, he allegedly told her, "I will not have you sign an NDA, but don't ever talk about this." The plaintiff also alleges that Watson reached out on Instagram in December, "acting as if nothing had happened".
By April 5, 2021, 22 lawsuits were filed against Watson. 18 professional massage therapists have since expressed support of his character, saying that the allegations contradict their experiences with Watson.
On April 7, 2021, Nike and Beats By Dre suspended endorsement deals with Watson. Reliant Energy and H-E-B stated that they did not plan on engaging with Watson in the future.
On March 18, 2022, Watson and the Texans' 2024 sixth-round draft pick were traded to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the Browns' first-round draft picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024, as well as the Browns' third-round pick in 2023 and fourth-round picks in 2022 and 2024. As part of the trade, Watson signed a new, fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million deal with the Browns, making it the largest contract and most guaranteed money in NFL history.
On March 11, 2022, a grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges related to "harassment and sexual misconduct". On that date he still faced 22 civil lawsuits, many alleging sexual misconduct, and assault. As of August 1, 2022, all but one of the pending civil cases had been settled.
As a result of these accusations, the NFL announced on August 18, 2022, that Watson would be suspended for 11 games, pay a record $5 million fine, undergo evaluation by behavioral experts, and complete a treatment program. His fine and an additional $2 million will be donated to agencies that work to prevent sexual assault.
On August 18, 2022, after the NFL and the NFLPA reached a settlement, Watson was suspended for the first 11 games of the 2022 regular season and was fined $5 million.
On November 28, 2022, Watson was reinstated from his suspension and was officially added to the 53-man roster. In Week 13, Watson started against his former team, the Houston Texans. In his first game in 700 days, Watson posted the worst passer rating of his NFL career at 53.4, throwing for 131 yards and one interception in the 27–14 win. Watson finished the 2022 season with a 3–3 record as starting quarterback, with 1,102 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions as he closed out the last six games of the season. The Browns would finish with a 7–10 record, and Watson's passer rating of 79.1 for the season was the lowest of his career.