Texans GM: We've found our franchise QB in Deshaun Watson

The list is long and not-so-distinguished.

The Texans have featured nine different starters at quarterback during the tenure of coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith, a virtual nonstop carousel of signal-callers. One after another, from journeymen to draft picks to big-ticket free agents.

But finally, in their fourth season, the search is over. Watch the electric Deshaun Watson play this season and that's clear. Yet it was still noteworthy to hear Smith state it so clearly last week -- and just five starts into Watson's career.

"Listen, if this guy stays healthy, we have our franchise quarterback," Smith told NFL.com following the Fall League Meeting in New York. "I feel confident in saying that."

With a laugh, Smith continued: "We've been looking for a while."

Smith made his comments before the words of owner Bob McNair created controversy and player unrest. Prior to Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, all eyes will be on the Texans' sideline to see how they react. But once the game starts, all eyes will be on the quarterback.

The list of feats have already stacked up. Watson was one of just four rookies to throw five TD passes in a game. Since he took over, Houston leads the league in scoring. He leads all QBs with 15 scores. We could go on.

Then, of course, there was the notable charity work in the Houston community.

Yet that's not the only thing that impresses Smith so early in Watson's career.

"My favorite thing about him is his leadership," Smith said. "His presence. He has an ability to always be calm and you need that. Always under control and in the moment and I love that about him."

The Texans traded up for Watson, giving up a first-round pick to move from No. 25 to 12 to take him. From Watson's perspective, the Texans were the team he wanted to go to most. He just never thought it would happen.

Early on in camp, Texans coaches believed he was special, which is why Watson's early success hasn't been surprising to Smith.

"I don't know if he's caught anybody by surprise," Smith said. "He's level and he's consistent. He keeps getting better each week and the moment is not too big for him. That energy that he has is infectious throughout the football team. It allows everybody to calm down, settle down, focus on their job and just go execute."

It became harder a few weeks ago when they lost star defenders J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season. The response was impressive in a blowout win over the Cleveland Browns. Watson is a big part of that.

"When you got a guy in that position that plays the way he plays and everybody knows if they do their job then he'll give them a chance to win... that's the leadership," said Smith, whose team plays the Seahawks coming off a bye. "And that's been pretty cool."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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