What we’re seeing from J.J. Watt is one of the great years yet recorded by a member of the Millennial Generation.
Watt has a way to go if he wants to catch LeBron James’ 2011-12, Lady Gaga’s 2010 (the “meat dress” year) or Mark Zuckerberg’s 2004, but he’s well on his way to Napster developer Shawn Fanning’s 1998.
I don’t mean to overstate this, but I feel like I need to overstate this in order to make the point. What J.J. Watt is doing for the Houston Texans right now is not just impressive, it’s historic. This is a significant moment for his generation (The Millennial Generation, which we’ll define as people who probably don’t remember where they were when they heard Kurt Cobain died, but do have at least a cursory familiarity with dubstep; i.e. those of us born between about 1980 and 2000).
If Watt continues playing the way he has for the first five games, he’ll end up with 27.2 sacks this season, which although not mathematically possible will nonetheless obliterate the record (22.5) held by Michael Strahan, a member of Generation X. This would be a significant moment, as most of the big single-season NFL records are currently held by previous generations. Touchdowns belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson (Gen X), rushing yards belongs to Eric Dickerson (borderline Baby Boomer/X), passing yards belongs to Drew Brees (X/Millennial), passing touchdowns belongs to Tom Brady (X), receptions belongs to Marvin Harrison (X), receiving yards belongs to Jerry Rice (Baby Boomer), interceptions belongs to Dick “Night Train” Lane (Greatest Generation). So on it goes.
Watt is on pace to have the greatest individual NFL season by a Millennial, which has him on the way to becoming one of the first legendary figures of his generation.
Again, I am sorry to overstate this, I just don’t know how else to state it. And I’m not the only one. Back in July, before this incredible season even started, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips predicted Watt would end up in the Hall of Fame.
“(Watt’s) going to be a bust — not a first-round bust but a bust in the Hall of Fame,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “The only players I’ve seen that can do what he can do with his intensity can be found in Canton.”
Let me reiterate that Phillips said this during training camp. A training camp, by the way, which Watt missed entirely on account of an elbow injury.
This should not be happening.
Watt was coming off a good rookie year. He had 5.5 sacks and made a play that instantly became the most iconic in Texans history, intercepting an Andy Dalton pass at the line of scrimmage and returning it for a touchdown in Houston’s first-ever playoff game.
But unless, evidently, you are an actual member of the Houston Texans, you could not have predicted what would happen the first five weeks of his second season. The consensus around the NFL seems to have rapidly become that Watt is the best defensive player in the league, and anybody who saw him play the Jets on Monday night can tell you exactly why.
He wrecked the Jets like they were the Double Deuce and he was Swayze, which is a reference Watt might not even understand, considering Road House is definitely more of a Gen X thing. See, you can’t even make great pop culture analogies for Watt, because his generation hasn’t produced enough of them yet. The point is, the Jets could not deal with him. He got another sack Monday, pushing his season total to 8.5 (from a position – end in a 3-4 – that isn’t even designed to generate a lot of sacks), and batted down two passes, which gives him eight of those. There are only 12 players with more passes defensed this season, and all of them are defensive backs.
Watt doesn’t usually see many double teams because the rest of the Texans’ pass rushers are so effective, but last night he became such a problem that on at least one play the Jets assigned two blockers to him. And guess what happened. Linebacker Brooks Reed got a sack.
Even when Watt isn’t making a play, he’s still sort of making a play.
It is remarkable, it is surprising, it is a little bit surreal. Is this just the way it’s going to be? Is this the new normal?