With Deshaun Watson Decision Coming On Monday, Here Are Some Answers To Faq’S

Deshaun Watson was all smiles at Saturday's practice. Will he be smiling after Sue Robinson's decision on his suspension on Monday? (Cleveland Browns)

Deshaun Watson was all smiles at Saturday's practice. Will he be smiling after Sue Robinson's decision on his suspension on Monday? (Cleveland Browns)

With Deshaun Watson decision coming on Monday, here are some answers to FAQ’s

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.

The Browns and the football world finally will learn the fate of quarterback Deshaun Watson on Monday morning, when independent disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson rules on whether he should be suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

The league investigation stems from 24 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and misconduct against Watson by female massage therapists in the Houston area during 2020 and 2021. Twenty of the lawsuits have been settled. The remaining four could proceed to trial in March of 2023.

Robinson’s decision comes after a months-long NFL investigation, followed by three days of a hearing in front of Robinson, followed by five-page briefs filed by the Watson legal team – which included the NFL Players Association – and the league chief investigator, Lisa Friel.

It has been reported that Robinson essentially is ruling on four complaints – not 24, not 60 – made by massage therapists.

After conducting their own five-month investigation, the Browns stunned the NFL by trading six draft choices, including three first-round picks, and then buying Watson’s love with a fully guaranteed contract for $230 million over five years.

The controversial acquisition polarized the Browns’ fan base and outraged NFL clubs for establishing a contract precedent for future franchise quarterbacks.

However many games Watson is suspended, the Browns will replace him with Jacoby Brissett, a journeyman backup who has a 14-23 record with three teams in six NFL seasons. Watson’s career record in four seasons with the Houston Texans is 28-25, but he earned Pro Bowl recognition in three of those four years and led the NFL in passing yards in his last active season in 2020.

Watson did not play at all in 2021 after he demanded a trade from Houston on Jan. 28, 2021. The first lawsuit against Watson was filed on March 16, 2021.

Robinson’s ruling will not end Watson’s legal problems, but it will give the Browns clarity on how many games they can count on having Watson.

Here are some other questions that finally will be answered on Monday.

Will this case drag out on appeals no matter Robinson’s ruling?

Possibly not. On Sunday, the NFLPA released an unusual, proactive statement pledging not to appeal Robinson’s ruling and urging the NFL to do the same. It read:

“In advance of Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding. First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct investigation. A former Federal Judge – appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL – held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative documents and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially. Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.”

What should we make of that?

It sure sounds as if the Watson side believes they made a better presentation in front of Robinson and expects a favorable ruling.

But it doesn’t mean the NFL wouldn’t appeal a lenient ruling. And if so, doesn’t Commissioner Roger Goodell have the authority to change the ruling?

Per terms of the collectively bargained Personal Conduct Policy, indeed he does. But it would be a bad look for him to usurp the first decision made by Robinson, who was jointly hired by the NFLPA and NFL, in this new process. Further, many believe Goodell wants to wash his hands of disciplinary cases if the new process is fair and effective. I don’t think the NFL would appeal. Or, if it did, Goodell would side with Robinson.

Why didn’t the sides agree to a settlement rather than leave the decision up to Robinson?

They just couldn’t bridge the gap to a compromise. Originally, Watson’s side argued for 0 games suspension and the NFL argued for an indefinite suspension with a minimum of 17 games. Supposedly, the league softened in settlement talks, but the Watson side not as much. Dan Graziano of ESPN reported that the last settlement discussion reached impasse when the league asked for 12 games plus an $8 million fine and Watson’s side favored 6 games and no fine.

What do you think Robinson’s verdict will be?

In June, I predicted it would be an indefinite suspension with reinstatement after 8 games based on conditions such as no appeal, counseling and therapy, and the settlement of all civil cases. I’ll stick by that.

If Watson is suspended for eight games, would the Browns’ price paid for Watson be justified?

I felt they always expected a suspension of 4-6 games. If it’s more than that, it means their five-month investigation was shoddy. But the price could be justified, nonetheless, if Watson comes back and quarterbacks the team deep into the playoffs. He would have to play lights-out for that to happen.