National Football League
Was Deshaun Watson's 2020 season the best by a quarterback in more than a decade?
National Football League

Was Deshaun Watson's 2020 season the best by a quarterback in more than a decade?

Updated Feb. 16, 2021 8:51 p.m. ET

No wonder Houston's holding on.

There has been no shortage of drama coming from the Houston Texans' camp over the past year, and the saga continues, with superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson still at odds with the franchise.

Despite Watson's trade request, the club has no intention of giving up its brightest star, and you can't blame it for that, as Watson had a phenomenal 2020 season, despite his team's struggles on and off the field.

According to Pro Football Focus, Watson took his game to the next level in 2020. His regular-season passing grade of 92.5 was the 19th-best regular-season grade recorded since 2006, when PFF began keeping complete statistical data for the league.


To put that in perspective, anything above a grade of 90.0 is considered historically great.

Watson is one of just 29 quarterbacks to finish a regular season with at least a 90.0 passing grade, and the other 28 all started under center for franchises that ended the season .500 or above. That makes Watson's feat for the 4-12 Texans even more impressive.

With a lack of support from the defense and run game and few offensive weapons, PFF argues that Watson was the league's best QB in 2020, finishing with the best single-season performance by a QB in the past 15 years.

But is PFF correct? Was Watson's campaign really the greatest by a QB in more than a decade?

On Tuesday's "Undisputed," Skip Bayless said yes.

"[Watson] did it in spite of the DeAndre Hopkins trade. It was a terrible move, and it was hard on him psychologically. ... He just dropped back and made it happen."

Watson was without All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins – whom Houston shipped to Arizona in March for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick – for the first time in his career. 

Even without Hopkins, Watson led the NFL in total passing yards (4,823), ranked second in passer rating (112.4) and yards per game (301.4), and tied for seventh in touchdowns (33). 

Both his passing yards and passing touchdowns set single-season franchise records, and Watson was one of four QBs in 2020 with at least 30 passing touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions.

He became the first player on a team with at least 12 losses to lead the NFL in passing yards since Jeff George did so with the 1997 Oakland Raiders. Watson did it all behind a porous offensive line, taking the second-most sacks in the league (49).

Not to mention that Johnson, the running back the Texans acquired in the Hopkins deal, didn't help the run game, as Houston averaged the second-fewest yards on the ground in the NFL (91.6). 

Meanwhile, the team's 30th-ranked defense (416.8) was abysmal, allowing the most rushing yards per game of any team in the NFL (160.3) and the sixth-most points per game (29.0).

Despite everything Watson managed to achieve under those dire conditions, Shannon Sharpe doesn't think his latest achievements equate to the best season by a quarterback in nearly two decades. 

Shannon compared Watson to the Green Bay PackersAaron Rodgers, who finished 2020 with one of the greatest quarterback campaigns of the PFF era.

Rodgers posted a 94.5 grade and league-best numbers in passer rating (121.5), completion percentage (70.7) and passing touchdowns (48).

Of course, he had one heck of a target in Davante Adams, who led the league in receiving touchdowns (18) and yards per game (98.1).

As Sharpe pointed out, Watson wasn't without weapons. Brandin Cooks managed to tally 1,150 receiving yards despite missing one game, and although Will Fuller played only 10 games, when he was on the field, Fuller ranked among the top 10 receivers in yards per game (79.9).

With help from Cooks and Fuller, Watson was able to rack up 10 games with at least 300 passing yards, more than any other QB in the regular season.

However you rank Watson's 2020 campaign, all eyes will be on him in 2021 – especially if he's suiting up in new colors.


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