Watson spent the previous three years (2011-13) on Charlie Strong’s staff at Louisville, serving as the quarterbacks coach and taking over as offensive coordinator the last two seasons. He helped the Cardinals post a 30-9 record, win a pair of Big East Conference Championships (2011, 2012) and earn three bowl appearances, while tutoring Teddy Bridgewater, one of the top quarterbacks in the nation who went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2013, Louisville finished 12-1 and led the nation in completion percentage (70.8), fewest passes intercepted (4) and fewest turnovers lost (10), and was second in third-down conversions (56.0 percent) and time of possession (33:49). The Cardinals also ranked third in passing efficiency (171.9), 16th in passing offense (314.0 yards per game) and 28th in total offense (460.8 ypg).
As a junior, Bridgewater was a finalist for the Manning Award and a semifinalist for both the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards. He threw for 3,970 yards and a school-record 31 touchdowns with only four interceptions and led the nation with a 71.0 completion percentage.
In 2012, Louisville posted an 11-2 record, claimed a Big East Championship and finished the year ranked 13th in the BCS Standings, USA Today Coaches Poll and Associated Press Poll. The Cards capped the year with a 33-23 upset win over fourth-ranked Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Bridgewater was named Big East Player of the Year and ranked eighth in the nation in passing efficiency, helping the Cardinals finish No. 3 in the FBS in red-zone efficiency (93.0%), tied for sixth in turnovers lost (13), eighth in third-down conversions (49.7%) and 24th in passing offense (296.1 ypg).
Watson came to Louisville in 2011 as the quarterbacks coach, and took over play-calling duties midway through the season. After a 2-4 start, Watson helped the Cardinals win five of their last six games to finish the regular season 7-5 and earn a bid to the Belk Bowl. The 2011 campaign saw Bridgewater earn Big East Rookie of the Year honors and freshman All-America accolades, while offensive guard Jake Smith became the first Cardinal player to be named a FWAA Freshman All-American. Watson was elevated to offensive coordinator following the season.
Prior to Louisville, Watson spent four seasons (2007-10) at Nebraska. He directed an offense in 2010 that ranked ninth in the country in rushing (247.6 ypg) and 39th in scoring (30.9 ppg). That rushing total was more than 100 yards better than the previous season when the Cornhuskers were playing with first-year starter Zac Lee under center and had three true freshmen score during the season, a program record.
In 2008, Nebraska ranked 12th nationally in total offense (450.8 ypg), 15th in passing offense (281.0 ypg), 15th in passing efficiency (154.5 rating) and 17th in scoring (35.4 ppg). Senior quarterback Joe Ganz set single-season school records for total offense (3,826) and passing yards (3,568) and ranked 14th nationally in passing efficiency (153.6 rating). He threw for 25 touchdowns while completing 67.9 percent of his passes, finishing his career with more than 20 Cornhusker records.
In 2007, his first season as offensive coordinator/QB coach, the Huskers threw for a school-record 3,886 yards, including the top three passing days in Cornhusker history. The Nebraska offense ranked ninth nationally at 468.2 yards per game, A pair of Watson's quarterbacks - Ganz and Sam Keller - helped Nebraska rank seventh nationally in passing with a school-record 323.8 yards per game.
In his first season at Nebraska, Watson coached the tight ends and was the recruiting coordinator. Among his protégés was Matt Herian, who finished his career with a Husker tight end record for receptions (65) and receiving yards (1,243).
Watson made his first stop in the Big 12 in 1999 when he became the quarterbacks coach at Colorado. He helped Mike Moschetti rank 13th nationally in passing efficiency (140.7 rating) and 14th in total offense (281.8 ypg) that season.
He was elevated to offensive coordinator/QB coach the following season and spent six years (1999-05) in Boulder, helping the Buffalos win the Big 12 North Division four times, including a conference title in 2001.
Under Watson, Colorado’s version of the West Coast Offense showed its flexibility and the ability to adapt to the Buffs’ offensive talent. Colorado ranked 20th nationally in total offense in 2001, was only the third team in CU history to average both 200 yards rushing and passing. After relying on a ground-oriented attack in 2001 and 2002, the 2003 Buffs featured a prolific passing attack, ranking 18th nationally at 279.3 yards per game. Colorado’s 2004 team produced a 1,000-yard rusher and a 2,000-yard passer for just the second time in school history.
In 2005, Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt re-wrote the CU record book under Watson’s guidance. Klatt finished his Buff career as the holder of 44 school records, including most career pass completions, attempts and passing yards.
Watson coached quarterbacks at Northwestern for two seasons (1997-98) under Gary Barnett after serving as head coach at Southern Illinois, his alma mater, for three years (1994-96). He coached 20 all-conference players during his time with the Salukis.
Watson was named the coach at SIU after an impressive seven-year (1987-93) run as an assistant coach at Miami University. At Miami, Watson tutored the wide receivers/tight ends for two years (1987-88), wide receivers for one (1989) and served as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator in his final four seasons (1990-93).
Watson went on to spend four seasons on Mike White’s staff at Illinois. He was a graduate assistant for two seasons (1883-84) before being elevated to a full-time position. He coached tight ends and offensive tackles in 1985 and the wide receivers in 1986. During that time, the Illini won the Big Ten title (1983), their first in 20 years, and made two bowl appearances.
Watson played three seasons in college. The native of Cardondale, Ill., spent 1978 at Illinois before transferring to Southern Illinois where he played two seasons (1979-80) as a safety.