The four-win Houston Texas were officially eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, giving the club little to play for in the final three weeks.
With no first- or second-round pick, even losing doesn't improve Houston's outlook for 2021.
With nothing to play for, it's been suggested that the most prudent move would be put star quarterback Deshaun Watson in bubble wrap and shut him down for the season to ensure he isn't injured in the final three weeks.
Sitting Watson isn't something interim coach Romeo Crennel is willing to entertain.
"That question has been asked. My deal is, we're in this game, we play this game to win and there's a season to be played," Crennel said, via the team's official transcript. "If you shut down Watson, then should you shut down the rest of the team and everybody pack up and go home for three games left? We're in the NFL and there's certain rules about playing. I think that probably if you shut down your team and left and didn't play the games, there'd be a tremendous fine involved. So, we're going to play the games and try to win as many as we can."
For his part, Watson wants no part of any talk about sitting out the final weeks. To one of the best players in the NFL, there are only 16 regular-season opportunities to get better each year.
"I know there are a lot of the fans and people looking for the future and things like that, but right now I live in the present," Watson said. "I want to finish this season out strong. I want to continue to get the reps that I want to get to be able to continue to grow as a quarterback and as a player and as a teammate. Like I said, I just want to continue to finish this season out strong. Of course, safety is always first, but at the same time, I want to finish these three games."
Despite a crumbling support staff, Watson is on pace to set career highs in completion percentage (68.9), passing yards per game (289.3), TD-INT ratio (25-6) and passer rating (109.4).
The stellar play hasn't come without the bumps and bruises. Watson has been sacked 39 times this season, third-most in the NFL. His 164 sacks in four years are fourth-most in a player's first 51 games since 1970.
Sunday, he faces a Colts team that sacked him five times two weeks ago. Indy defenders have sacked Watson 21 times in his career, most by any opponent.
Crennel noted that Watson's desire to play through the poor season makes it easier for the coaching staff.
"Well, that plays a lot," he said. "You want players who want to be out there and then you think about his role, he's the leader. You want the leader to be out there leading your men. So, I applaud the fact that he wants to play and he wants to try to help his team, help the organization. That's the way it should be. Players want to play the game - If you're competitors. If you're not a competitor then you probably go over on the bench and sit down and wrap up and wait for the game to be over, or either, as some people have suggested, not play him at all and wait for the season to be over. But we're not going to do that. We're going to play and we're going to play the best we can until it's over."
It's been a dismal season in Houston. It's tough to imagine how bad the Texans might look if Watson weren't on the club.
With games against the Colts, Bengals and Titans left on the 2020 slate, Watson plans to play out the string with his teammates.