Culley on possible Watson trade: “He is our quarterback.”
HOUSTON (AP) — New Houston Texans coach David Culley reiterated Thursday that the team has no intention of trading Deshaun Watson despite the star quarterback’s request to be dealt.
Culley, hired in January to replace Bill O’Brien, was asked more than a half-dozen times about Watson’s future with the team. Every time he made it clear he expects Watson to lead his team this season.
“We are very committed to Deshaun as our quarterback,” Culley said. “He is our quarterback. He’s the only guy we got under contract at this time right now.”
Culley said he has spoken to Watson since taking that job but declined to give any details.
Later he was asked whether he has tried to talk Watson into wanting to remain with the team.
“It’s not a matter of me trying to change anybody’s mind,” he said. “As I said before, right now we’re committed to him. He’s a Houston Texan and we’re going to move forward with that.”
Watson, who led the NFL in yards passing last season, has been unhappy with the direction of the team for some time. He made his request to be traded not long after the season ended. Sports Illustrated reported in January that Watson was upset the Texans didn’t initially request to interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for their coaching vacancy. They eventually did interview Bieniemy before hiring Culley.
O’Brien was fired after the Texans opened the season 0-4 and they finished 4-12 after winning the AFC South the previous two seasons.
Culley said they do not have a contingency plan at quarterback if Watson decides to hold out if he isn’t traded. Asked if Watson was committed to him and the team, Culley replied: “Yes, he is.”
When pushed about how he knows that, Culley didn’t provide any details indicating Watson has told him that.
“Well, he’s a Houston Texans,” he said. “And again… I feel like that with the commitment that we’ve made to him, I feel like that that same commitment will be there with us.”
The situation with Watson comes amid a time of unprecedented upheaval for the franchise. The Texans granted J.J. Watt’s request to be released last month with one year remaining on his contract. He recently signed with the Cardinals for two years, joining star receiver DeAndre Hopkins — who O’Brien traded before last season for very little return.
Watson is in a different situation than Watt after signing a four-year, $156 million contract last year. Watson’s contract makes a trade more difficult because of the future dead money for Houston, which gave him a $27 million bonus that is prorated.
Culley is in his first head coaching job after spending more than two decades as an NFL assistant. He seems undaunted by the uncertainty surrounding Watson and is looking forward to getting going with his new team.
“My enthusiasm has gone through the roof right now,” he said. “It’s gone up even more. If you saw me before then, you see me now and you hear me now, you see it’s gone through the roof, and it’s getting higher and higher every day as I get excited about this football team and where we’re headed.”
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By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer