Justin James Watt….mega-star defensive end for the Texans who kisses babies, signs autographs for fans, jumps over Jimmy Kimmel and regularly records multiple sacks and double-digit tackles with little or no effort.
This will be a rare article that will focus on what Watt “isn’t doing”. From a football perspective as an individual player there isn’t much that Watt hasn’t already accomplished, and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in regards to his potential.
We are all well aware of his accolades as a player and community leader/star personality.
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The “missing link” for Watt in my opinion so far is that we have not seen him emerge as the leader of the locker room. In fact, I think that we’ve seen the exact opposite.
J.J. is so darn talented that I honestly think that he feels as if he is personally accountable to get the team to the next level, and there’s nothing wrong with that mindset, except that it takes a team to be successful at this level.
A NFL locker room is a collection of muscular, egotistical physical freaks who have been told that they are better than sliced bread since they were standouts in pop warner football. That mindset sometimes manifests itself into a mentality that they are above criticism.
Sometimes this mentality has to be broken with a sledgehammer known as leadership. It has to come from someone who has the “football street creds” to voice their opinion on the team or an individual’s performance, and even in some cases it’s necessary to share criticism of playcalling and personnel decisions.
After a 1-4 start, with the defense crumbling, quarterbacks playing russian roulette with the starting position, special teams serving up turnovers like a bartender pouring happy hour drinks and the season on life support, there is no time like the present for J. J. Watt to become that guy who breaks those egos.
There are two types of “locker room leaders” in my opinion: Type A which is the “grab your face mask” kind of guy, who expresses his frustration loudly and clearly. Examples of this personality type are Peyton Manning (ask Jeff Saturday about his exchange with Peyton) Tom Brady (Bill O’Brien has experienced his wrath before), Dez Bryant and Richard Sherman
Type B locker room leaders are the “motivators”, who adopt the Ray Lewis mindset by tapping into that same ego-system but instead of highlighting deficiencies focuses on further inflating that ego by telling them how great they are and reminding them why they should be successful. Examples of this personality type are Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
It’s fair to argue that Watt isn’t either of these personality types. Watt has emerged as more of a “mentor” than a leader. He comes in early, stays late, and “leads by example” which is fine and dandy, but when your team is falling apart at the seams that example needs to be reinforced with words. If his teammates are not getting the job done there comes a point in time where he should step up and say something about it. Obviously they aren’t following the example closely enough so it’s time to take it to the next level.
"I’m always trying to lead by example. I m going to go out here and try to do things the right way, try and show the guys that I m all-in. Obviously, with a lot of the young guys, I m a little bit older now I m 25, so I m a little bit older I m trying to help them as much as I can, Watt said. I m telling them little tips, just some of the little things: how to be a pro off the field, how to take care of your body, how to take care of your business. And then on the field, little tricks, little tips that I ve learned through my few years. (I’m) doing as much as I can."
Talent will only take a player and a team so far. In order to be excellent it must be demanded. It’s time for J.J. Watt to become more vocal in the organization so that 10 years from now he’s not reflecting back at his prime and thinking that he sat in silence and was a part of mediocre teams that didn’t progress like Andre Johnson did.
Go ahead and speak your mind J.J. The fans will still be there for you.