Deshaun Watson would look good quarterbacking the 49ers offense. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Is there hope for the Faithless? Mr. Watson, we presume

Think the Faithless would be excited to swap out the quarterback who took a knee at the worst possible time for the one who took the best knee of the college football season the other night?

Well, after Deshaun Watson led Clemson to a come-from-behind, 35-31 white-knuckler over mighty Alabama in the title game, Balls believes it more than ever.

Watson isn’t perfect. After all, the kid is 21 years old. The draft experts are sure to pick at his warts in the next few months. Why, it’s quite possible that Watson will become something closer to Vince Young than Steve Young when all is said and done.

While it’s not wise to make judgments off one game, let’s not forget that Watson was at his best when the stakes were highest. It’s hard to ignore his 463 yards, four touchdowns and zero turnovers in the championship game. On the biggest stage in college football. After the Crimson Tide threatened to turn him into ground chuck in the first half. Against a defense that some considered to be the best ev-er.

From here, Watson looks to be a cross between Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott, a guy who can make all the throws in the pocket as well as he runs out of it. It’s the intangibles that scream out at you, though. He has the look of a leader and a winner.

If only it were that easy. Because for Santa Clara’s purposes, Watson may have played too well in his final college game.

At least for now, the Cleveland Browns own the first pick in the draft. For months, they’ve had eyes for Texas A&M sack master Myles Garrett, we’re told. That was before Watson decided to put his team on his shoulders and carry it to immortality. Like Santa Clara, the Browns need a lot of things, most notably a franchise quarterback. They would be crazy not to take a closer look at him now.

Of course, the next Santa Clara general manager could take the quarterback search elsewhere, but who’s out there? Is Jimmy Garoppolo really worth a first- and fourth-round picks if he’s available at all? The better bet is the draft, where the GM can choose between some combination of Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, the top consensus picks at the position.

Garrett could be there, too, but if you’re gonna miss big, better to do it at the most important position on the field.

Just ask the last Santa Clara general manager, name of Trent Baalke.

REST OF THE STORY … If and when Santa Clara selects Watson, they can finagle a way to get Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams for him to throw to.

THAT’S A FACT, JACK: The promotion of Raiders quarterback coach Todd Downing to offense coordinator is understandable, what with Derek Carr’s rapid rise and several teams reportedly interested in him.

Even so, coordinator Bill Musgrave deserved better even if he did make a mistake not to pull rookie Connor Cook in the playoff loss against the Texans in Houston last weekend. No one can say the sixth-ranked offense underachieved over the course of the season.

But the decision to retain defense counterpart Ken Norton Jr. reeks of a head coach who wants a yes man at the side of the ball that he knows best.

Norton was the mastermind of a group that ranked 26th and 22nd the last two seasons. From mishandling rookie safety Karl Joseph to playing $40-million cornerback Sean Smith in soft coverage, the guy was clueless far too often. Secondary coach Marcus Robertson received a pink-slip for his troubles, but Norton should have gotten one first.

Now let’s turn our focus to Jack Del Rio himself, shall we?

As his 87-84 regular-season record confirms, Del Rio has been nothing special in 11 seasons as an NFL head coach. He has yet to win a division title. Only once has he advanced as far as the divisional round of the
playoffs.

The Raiders took another half-step forward under Del Rio this season, but the way they finished it was not good at all, Carr or no Carr.

If the Raiders gag on the AFC West title again next season, then we already know who should be next out the door.

AND ANOTHER THING … Del Rio wondered openly why his team ran the ball only 16 times in the final game of the regular season.

Uh, coach, could be because the defense turned Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Trevor Semian into John Elway in the first half, when your team trailed 16-zip, remember?

JUST SAYIN’: Bet fewer people root against Alabama coach Nick Saban than they do the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, but the vote requires a recount.

The NFL desperately needs a huge Super Bowl draw. Balls’ money is on the Patriots and Dallas Cowboys.

The Clemson-Alabama smackdown would have been even better had sore winner coach Dabo Sweeney not referred to Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd as a “fraud” afterward …

While Cowherd savored every second of the attention.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ stud back Le’Veon Bell says he’s the Stephen Curry of football. If Bell were, say, 5-foot-9, 200 pounds and chewed on his mouthpiece, he might have a case.

Why are so many people furious about “Furious George,” George Karl’s tell-all book? He didn’t write anything about the NBA and its players that most of us didn’t know already.

Speaking of one-time Sacramento Kings, the line for Rajon Rondo bobbleheads in Chicago the other night was slightly longer than that of coaches who wanted him on their teams.

THE LIST: Sure-miss picks against the spread for Week 1 of the NFL postseason …

Green Bay Packers (+4 points) at Cowboys.

Houston Texans at Patriots (-16).

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-1 1/2).

Seattle Seahawks (+5) at Atlanta Falcons.

Last week: 2-2. Season: 21-31 (.404).

YOUR TURN: “Thanks very much for bringing attention to the disgusting travesty of using unpaid athletes to make billions of dollars for colleges and television networks but not them or their families. It’s criminal, plain and simple. Sorry for the rant but I’ve been peeved about this for a long time.” — Patrick McGuire, San Francisco

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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