BEREA — Deshaun Watson is happy in Houston.
Baker Mayfield is glad he’s there, too.
The Browns had two chances to draft Watson out of Clemson in 2017 to be their franchise quarterback. They took defensive end Myles Garrett at No. 1, then traded No. 12 to the Texans, who used the pick on Watson.
The Browns got back the 25th pick and a first-rounder in 2018 that turned out to be No. 4. They took safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Denzel Ward.
Watson said he no longer carries a grudge against the Browns for not wanting him. Former head of football operations Sashi Brown was making the decisions at the time.
“No, I am just focused on my career and what I can do down here in Houston,” Watson said Wednesday on a conference call. “I am in a blessed position. I am happy. I am comfortable with everything that is going down in this organization and this city.”
If the Browns had chosen Watson, they may not have gone winless last season and definitely wouldn’t have spent the No. 1 pick in April on another quarterback in Mayfield. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said before the draft not taking Watson would be like passing on Michael Jordan.
“Coach Sweeney nailed it on the head that he was going to make every team regret that decision,” Mayfield said. “He believed that and you see that confidence he carries.
“But everything happens for a reason and I firmly believe that.”
Watson, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury, is 11-6 as a starter. Mayfield has won two straight to improve to 3-5.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien believes both teams have found their franchise quarterbacks after years of looking.
“No doubt about it,” O’Brien said. “Baker Mayfield is a great player, a very instinctive guy and an accurate passer. He is a winner. He is a competitor.”
Watson and Clemson got the best of Mayfield and Oklahoma in a 37-17 playoff semifinal win in 2015. Mayfield went 26-for-41 for 311 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while Watson was 18-for-31 for 187 yards, a touchdown and interception and rushed 24 times for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“Deshaun is an incredible quarterback, incredible athlete, a great leader,” Mayfield said. “He’s been playing at a very high level. He’s a huge reason why they’ve won eight in a row. It’s always great to play great competition. You always look forward to that.”
They’ve worked out together, and Watson called Mayfield “a best friend.”
“He is very energetic. The whole city, the whole organization is always behind him,” Watson said. “I saw that when he was playing at Texas Tech and saw it at Oklahoma. That is what drew me closer to him, want to be around him and get to know him a little better because I can feed off of that energy that he gives off. Everyone wants to play with him.
“I am a big Baker fan and everything that he has been doing for a long time. It is going to be very exciting to see him pregame and compete against him. I will talk to him later this week and probably jersey swap with him.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams opened his news conference by offering condolences on behalf of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Browns organization to the Texans after the death of owner Robert McNair.
“We know it has been a tough week for the city of Houston,” Williams said. “He loved football, he loved that city and he loved his family. What Mr. McNair did for that community of Houston by bringing an NFL football team back to the region was very noble, and the people of that city greatly appreciate what he did. The NFL will miss Mr. McNair.”
He died Friday at 81. The Texans beat the Titans on Monday night.
“It was tough. Bob was a great man,” O’Brien said. “He was a great family man. He really believed in our football team. He believed in our players.”
The Browns had to improvise during practice, as starting center JC Tretter (ankle) and backup Austin Corbett (foot) didn’t practice.
“Right now, I am trying to limit the reps with Bob Wylie,” Williams joked, referring to the aging and overweight line coach. “We are moving other guys in there. Bob got a little fatigued today.”
Tretter has only practiced on Fridays since suffering a high ankle sprain Oct. 14 but hasn’t missed a snap in a game. He’s expected to play Sunday.
Corbett, the No. 33 pick in April, was a new addition to the injury report. In the 35-20 win over the Bengals on Sunday he played two snaps on offense as an extra lineman and five on special teams. Williams, who said Corbett was stepped on in the game, was asked if the injury could be season-ending.
“We are just going to take it day by day, and we will see,” Williams said.
If Tretter and Corbett couldn’t play, veteran Earl Watford or Kyle Kalis from the practice squad would likely step in. Kalis went to St. Edward High School.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler would also be a candidate to slide over.
IN HIS BLOOD
Williams will get an interview for the full-time coaching job but said he’d be fine going back to a lower position.
“I love what I do, and in all honesty, if I was not head coaching or defensive coordinator, I would love to be special teams coordinator again,” he said. “I loved that time there, even the position coach part of it.
“Leadership, it is what it is. I really do love the aspect of having the chance to be in charge of whatever responsibilities they give me. It is not just head coach. I enjoy the competition factor of competing at the NFL level.”