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The NFL And Deshaun Watson Did The Math

Deshaun Watson
Nick Cammett/Getty Images

To the surprise of nobody, Deshaun Watson and the NFL made their peace with each other by doing simple math—the midpoint between six weeks and 18 weeks is 12 weeks, and the midpoint in games is 11.5, so that’s about where the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback saw his ultimate suspension for 24 cases of alleged sexual misconduct land, with an acknowledgement by the NFL that suspending someone for half a game is impractical, silly, and plays hob with the spread.

This settlement, accomplished one thing, though, that both sides found more agreeable than standing on their personal principles—the acknowledgement that nobody wanted the threat of discovery motions to make everyone look bad in the end. Conflict resolution through mutually assured fear of the courts may not be restorative, but in the practical realm of professional human crashes for money, it sure beats all the other alternatives.

Among the things it did not settle, of course, is Watson’s behavior with the women who have not yet settled their grievances; the other owners’ issues with Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam over guaranteeing and backloading Watson’s contract to try to evade financial punishments; Roger Goodell’s posturing desire to give Watson something more along the lines of the works; and maybe even how badly the Browns might desire the Phantom Zone’s starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.

But none of this was about anything other than finding a happy place where everyone could be a little dissatisfied while avoiding the transparency that could have sunk them all in the largely disinterested world of public opinion. The NFL is impervious to scandal so the idea of addressing it at all seemed foolish except as a performative act, and the grand jury in Texas that passed on any indictment pretty much told you where Texas stands on the matter (Hmmm, a quarterback vs. women? Who’s kidding who here?).

But Goodell still has a tepid mandate to act like the league’s coppo di tutti coppo, so he had to wave his arms around a bit and jump up and down in place for the available cameras, and Watson had to do the apology/non-apology dance to help move the process of getting-it-over-with-for-the-good-of-the-team. The tons of written and spoken words about the issue faded the way they always do, into a gentle waft of nothingness, and the $5 million fine (more than the $350,000 some-odd the contract originally spelled out) is a nice round number that looks substantial until you realize that it is less than two game checks based on his average annual salary, which in this case masquerades as a signing bonus.

In short, it’s all chump change in the end, which is how the league fires out justice. Everyone gets to hurt a little bit, but no illegalities or enduring grudges are actually dealt with, and all the what-could-this-mean gasbagging dies in the utterly predictable whimper it was always meant to do. The answer to every question surrounding the league is, Nothing much. Just give it a minute and two guys in suits will find the necessary number.

This might be a good lesson to remember the next time an allegedly big deal happens in the NFL—follow the money right up until it leads to the possibility of exposure in a court of law, and then wait for the lawyers to order up some chicken wings and do the math between nothing and something. Eighteen minus six is 12, and $5 million is a little over 10 percent, a round enough number for everyone involved. It’s easy—just use the calculator on your phone and fiddle with the number until everybody winces a bit outwardly and laughs uproariously on the inside.

So Deshaun Watson is now officially yesterday’s news, a fantasy pick with a metaphorical torn ACL, and you should adjust your fandom and fantasy teams accordingly. Because in the end, that’s all this was ever going to be.

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