The Houston Texans introduced their new general manager amid rumblings of an unhappy franchise quarterback, and the fresh hire was direct in his response to questions about Deshaun Watson.
Nick Caserio made it very clear: Watson is going nowhere.
"I think each year is a new year. We're starting from scratch," Caserio explained. "I think the most important thing for us to speak specifically to Deshaun. I say from afar the respect and admiration that I have for him as a player and what he's done for this organization is significant. He's our quarterback.
"Quite frankly, he's a big reason why over the last two seasons we faced the Texans that New England came out on the losing side of the ledger. ... When the appropriate time comes, we'll sit and spend some time with Deshaun. We're certainly looking forward to the opportunity to work with him."
On Thursday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Watson is "extremely unhappy" with the organization regarding his lack of involvement in the process that led to the hiring of Caserio, especially after Texans owner Cal McNair told Watson he'd play a role in deciding on a new general manager. Watson has not spoken to Texans officials in the last few days despite attempts to contact him, per Rapoport, and McNair confirmed he hadn't spoken to Watson since hiring Caserio.
The news prompted an understandable question: Are Watson's days in Houston numbered? McNair quickly ended that speculation with his response, clearly displaying pleasure with his new hire.
"In regards to 4 (Watson) and 99 (J.J. Watt), they're valued members on our team. They're important to the team and the city," McNair said. "They're passionate and they want to win. And those are totally in alignment with where we're going and what we've done here with bringing Nick aboard, so it's perfect."
NFL Films caught Watt apologizing to Watson for Houston's ineptitude in 2020 following their season-ending loss to Tennessee Sunday, telling the quarterback "I'm sorry. We wasted one of your years."
"I mean, we should have 11 wins," Watt continued in the clip posted to Twitter. "We should."
Houston instead won four games, and will embark on a pivotal offseason with the intent to improve top to bottom. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of Caserio, who stressed the importance of working collectively toward a greater goal, not focusing on individual achievements.
When it came to individual success, Watson was stellar in 2020, finishing as the league leader in passing yards and second in passer rating after spending a campaign attempting to throw the Texans back into games and counter a leaky defense that finished dead last against the run. Without Watson, Houston undoubtedly finishes among the league's worst teams, and even with him, they weren't far off.
He'll need a better effort from his teammates, including those creating room for running backs to make a difference, and a defense that lacked impact players outside of Watt and linebacker Zach Cunningham.
It's up to Caserio to make the changes necessary to see that expectation into reality.
"What is the vision, what is the plan moving forward for the Houston Texans?" Caserio proposed. "(It centers on) willingly accepting challenges which we unquestionably will face, have faced and will continue to face each day. Always put the team above yourself; nothing is, nothing will be more important than the team. Others before self; team before I.
"That will be the mindset, and that will be the expectations for everybody that walks into the building on a daily basis."