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Deshaun Watson’s ACL Tear Is a Loss for the Entire NFL

The rookie passer, who is now out for the season, was the most exciting player in the league

Houston Texans v New England Patriots

We can’t have nice things.

Deshaun Watson, the Texans quarterback who spent the first half of the season rewriting the NFL record book as he almost-instantaneously became the most exciting player in football, suffered a torn ACL in practice Thursday, first reported by Ian Rapoport.

Watson was injured during a non-contact drill and will undergo season-ending surgery.

The 22-year-old was the most electric player in the NFL this season. He was a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year and a candidate for MVP. He is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes with 19, putting him on pace to destroy the rookie record of 26 held by Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning. He leads the league in touchdown percentage and just came off of his finest game of his season, where he threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions for a 106.9 passer rating against the Seahawks’ defense. He’s the no. 3 player in fantasy football, and he might also be the third-best player in real football.

He was definitely the most fun. Rookie quarterbacks barely old enough to legally drink should not be able to do this against the Seattle Seahawks.

Watson’s injury is devastating for the Texans. The team had already lost defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus for the season, and now, not even two months after Watson took the figurative torch from Watt as the heart of the Texans, he’s out for the season, too. Houston, sitting at 3-4 and in third place in the winnable AFC South, will turn to Tom Savage for its second-half playoff push. Savage, who entered the season as Houston’s starter but was benched for Watson after just one half of action, has plenty of experience practicing with the first team, but doesn’t provide anywhere near the explosive talent Watson brought to the offense. Houston will also need to sign a backup quarterback, and may have already found a candidate in Matt McGloin, who played under Texans head coach Bill O’Brien at Penn State in 2012.

The Texans are only one game back from the division lead, but without Watson, catching the Titans or Jaguars feels improbable. Less than 24 hours after Houston baseball reached the mountaintop, its football team is crashing to earth.

Beyond Houston, Watson’s injury reverberates around the league. In a season that has lost star players like Watt, Aaron Rodgers, and Odell Beckham Jr., the rapid rise to stardom for Watson was perhaps the best storyline of the year. He combined a winning pedigree and “it” factor with the ability to make every play a highlight. Perhaps even rarer, his on-field ability was matched with the type of genuine, magnetic personality the league is often missing. Watson is the player the NFL needed—someone who looked like not just the future face of his franchise, but the league as a whole. Now he’s gone for the year. The Texans are worse off, and so are all of us.