Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

deshawn watson (copy)

Former Clemson star and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson — seated between Post and Courier sports columnist Gene Sapakoff (left) and longtime sportscaster Warren Peper — took questions at The CHARLEYS, celebrating achievements in sports, at The Gaillard Center sponsored by The Post and Courier Friday night, May 11, 2018.  Watson is unhappy with the Texans and appears to be in the process of forcing a trade for the 2021 season. Wade Spees/Staff

The Patriots?



Derrick Deshaun Watson of Gainesville, Ga., has spent four seasons with the Houston Texans playing like a future jacket-wearing member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Which means the former Face of the Clemson Franchise also projects as an All-World anomaly: a star quarterback traded at peak value.




Several Hall of Fame quarterbacks have switched teams late in their careers. Bobby Layne, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning.

A few Hall of Fame quarterbacks moved on early, pre-stardom. Johnny Unitas, Len Dawson, Steve Young, Favre.

But Y.A. Tittle, Sonny Jurgensen, Fran Tarkenton, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees stand out among the few current or certain Hall of Fame quarterbacks who switched teams mid-career.

Such a rarity is more than likely to happen again after Watson’s public complaints about inept Texans management. Among other things, the 2020 NFL passing yards leader was told he would be consulted on hiring a new general manager. Only to learn via social media that former Patriots executive Nick Caserio was coming aboard.

The Texans inexplicably traded former Clemson standout DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona in March without getting a first-round draft pick in return for the NFL’s best receiver.

"I was on 2,” Watson tweeted Friday in apparent reference to his anger level, “then I took it to 10.”

Translated into professional athlete English from the typically sweet mild-mannered language of a cooperative organization man: high-decibel scream.

Bye, bye, Houston.

And the trade price for a 25-year-old Pro Bowl passer/runner/leader?

Enormous. Smart teams should start by offering three first-round picks and a starter or two.

The 10 best Watson landing spots:

Carolina Panthers

Watson via Twitter on Monday pleaded with people to cancel “a march planned on my behalf in Houston today” citing a concern for COVID spreading.

It would be hard to stop celebrations in two states if the Panthers make a deal.

The Panthers’ first season (1995) was played at Clemson. Their first Super Bowl victory might include a former Clemson quarterback.

Houston isn’t about to trade Watson within the AFC South to the Colts but this deal gets Watson into the NFC, where he is less likely to haunt the Texans.

Las Vegas Raiders

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney isn’t the only coach to compare Watson to the great Michael Jordan; the Raiders’ Jon Gruden did it after Watson rallied Houston to a 27-24 victory over the Raiders in 2019.

The Raiders love Clemson players, having picked Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, Hunter Renfrow, Tanner Muse and John Simpson in the last two drafts.

“We’re called ‘Clemson West’ now,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told The Post and Courier last year. “I told that to (head coach) Dabo (Swinney). He sends us his players and we just see what we can make of them. Dabo has such a great program.”

Along with Renfrow, the Raiders’ receiver room includes 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor (a free agent) and former South Carolina star Bryan Edwards.

New Orleans Saints

Brees, 42, looked like he was on his way to retirement after Sunday night’s NFC playoff loss to Tampa Bay. He was soaking in the Superdome scene after the game and returned to the field for a postgame chat with Tom Brady (Brady gleefully tossed a touchdown pass to one of Brees’ sons).

Nice post-Brees fit for head coach Sean Payton and the Saints.

Atlanta Falcons

The waning Matt Ryan Era has produced one Super Bowl appearance. Time to move on to a native Georgian capable of owning the NFC South when Brady and Brees move on.

With the Panthers and Saints interested, Falcons management has to ask if Atlanta fans would rather cheer for or against Watson.

Miami Dolphins

Though a pathetic 4-12 in 2020, the Texans don’t have a first or second round pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

Those picks went to Miami in the 2019 Laremy Tunsil trade but could come back for a Houston team that needs help everywhere.

While Watson has a trade veto clause in his contract, probably eliminating non-contenders like the Jets, he reportedly favors Miami (though Dolphins head coach Brian Flores just pledged confidence in Tua Tagovailoa).

New England Patriots

Presently in fourth-place in the AFC East, quarterback talent-wise. In desperate need of a splash.

Watson would get to work with Bill Belichick, surely determined to prove the Patriots’ glory run wasn’t mostly about Brady.

Denver Broncos

The best young group of pass-catchers in the NFL: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant.

Plus, a chance to learn stuff from Broncos legend John Elway.

Washington Football Team

Just the kind of splash owner Daniel Snyder needs. Ron Rivera is a well-respected head coach, the young defense is ready to win consistently and the NFC East is there for the taking.

San Francisco 49ers

Here’s a team that has a decent young quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to offer in return. Caserio and Garoppolo share New England ties.

The 49ers get a major upgrade. Watson gets imaginative head coach Kyle Shanahan and weapons such as tight end George Kittle and former South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel.

Chicago Bears

The latest Monsters of the Midway reincarnation can correct a mistake made in the 2017 NFL draft, picking North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick before Kansas City got Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 and Houston snagged Watson at No. 12.

And make nine or more other NFL teams wish they had traded for a future Hall of Famer.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff