In case you missed all the fireworks late last week, Deshaun Watson is still very unhappy with the Texans organization as Houston’s offseason soap opera continues in the wake of Cal McNair’s decision to hire Nick Caserio to be his new general manager.
Had the Houston Texans stayed the course and followed the recommendation of the search firm Korn Ferry, they likely would have hired Pittsburgh Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan as their next general manager, league sources told ESPN.
Khan and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick, who are both minority candidates, were the two finalists before Texans owner Cal McNair changed his mind, ignored the recommendation of the search firm he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do weeks of work and hired former New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, sources said.
Multiple people in the Texans organization, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, were upset with how Houston’s search took a sudden and unexpected turn, hiring a man that Korn Ferry did not include on its list of candidates.
It appears, based on Schefter’s information, Houston was pretty far down the road with Omar Khan before suddenly changing course to hire Caserio. As Is mentioned in my previous piece covering this ongoing saga, it’s believed both by several NFL analysts (and myself) that Texans executive Jack Easterby was behind the abrupt hire of a former Patriots buddy in order to secure his job in Houston for the future.
With Schefter’s report, we now know for a fact Caserio was not a finalist for the job in the minds of the search firm Cal McNair specifically employed three months ago for the GM search, and Caserio’s hiring blindsided not only Deshaun Watson, but several other Texans employees. Schefter also mentions:
Also worth noting: One source said this week that, after Houston traded Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last off-season, Deshaun Watson’s anger level was “a 2….This time, it’s a 10.” https://t.co/CsqZYbe3OK— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 10, 2021
All around bad news on what was already a negative development right out of the gate in the offseason. We already knew Deshaun Watson was frustrated by the process in which Cal McNair and Jack Easterby found a general manager. If being five times more angry than he was back when Hopkins was traded is any indication, things can get even worse. Of course, the news would only spiral downward as the day went on:
Sources say Watson could play hardball with Texans about a trade. His new $156 million contract includes a no-trade clause but informed speculation from a source is that he would consider the @MiamiDolphins in which Tua Tagovailoa and additional compensation goes to Houston.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 10, 2021
NFL Insider Chris Mortensen was the first to report Deshaun Watson’s additional frustrations with how the Texans organization handles social justice (though Mortensen later softened his reporting on that aspect) and its failure to interview Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy. More worrying is Mort mentioning Watson’s potential interest in “playing hardball with the Texans” and forcing a trade, even going so far as listing the Miami Dolphins as a possible destination. Such a trade would likely mean sending 2020 first round quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and more to Houston in exchange for Watson.
It just gets better and better, doesn’t it? Last week, it was rumors of Watson asking around about a trade. A few days ago, it was frustration with how business was conducted by the higher-ups. Yesterday, the trade buzz is back with a vengeance.
A blockbuster trade that sends Tua Tagovailoa and a first round pick (plus more) to Houston for Watson would dethrone anything Bill O’Brien concocted during his tenure as the worst move in franchise history. It would be the most controversial and upsetting transaction the Texans have ever made, and it would define a 2021 offseason that hasn’t even really started yet. It would also be completely on brand for the Texans to trade away a generational talent at a skill position for a player much worse than him and draft picks that were originally theirs.
As the morning turned into afternoon, more news broke. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio disclosed further details on the debacle surrounding the general manager search:
Team president Jamey Rootes, though not mentioned by name in Schefter’s story, also is believed to be extremely upset that the work done by [consulting firm] Korn Ferry, with Rootes’ involvement, was thrown overboard. Some believe that it’s just a matter of time before Rootes leaves the Texans; at least one person believes that Rootes already has tried to resign, but that Rootes was persuaded to wait in order to avoid further reinforcement of the perception/reality of disarray within the franchise.
Frankly, the disarray traces exclusively to Easterby. He was losing power and influence. Some believed he could end up being fired. The prevailing story in league circles is that, as the team was closing in on hiring one of the Korn Ferry finalists, Easterby went to owner Cal McNair’s house and talked him into hiring Caserio.
Another source said that agent Bob LaMonte, who represents both Easterby and Caserio, made a well-timed phone call to McNair, explaining that Caserio was poised to become the G.M. of the Panthers, and that Caserio would take Easterby with him. (It doesn’t matter if it was true that Caserio was going to the Panthers; what matters is whether McNair believed it.)
Florio would then add this shocker to the piece a few hours later:
Adding to this: Omar Khan actually had been offered the job and was negotiating a contract when Jack Easterby pulled a rabbit out of his hat and convinced Cal McNair to hire Nick Caserio. https://t.co/bY3f2w4Cua— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 10, 2021
So not only was Omar Khan likely going to be hired, he had been negotiating a contract (!!!) with Houston when Jack Easterby swept in and disrupted the whole operation with (the apparently very seductive) Nick Caserio. Rootes is trying to resign because of it! Pending confirmation of this, I can completely understand why Watson may jump ship before this gets any worse. Everything has blown up in the face of McNair and Easterby. Who knows what the Texans will look like after the ashes settle?
The rumblings of Watson considering a trade last week sent shockwaves of uneasiness throughout Houston. The later reports of his disappointment in ownership for (again) failing to communicate with him felt like a disappointing return to form for an organization hoping to turn a corner. Now, mounting information about the turmoil inside NRG Park and rumors of Watson’s specific desire for a potential trade destination have broken new ground in this storyline. The possibility of Watson being gone before the 2021 season feels more and more real as days go by. This is an absolute nightmare.
Regardless of what king’s ransom Miami would be willing to give up in order to get Watson, it’s not worth the price of losing an elite talent at the most important position in sports. Year after year after year, we see how monumentally difficult it is to find an exceptional quarterback. Every single season, any team with a real shot at the Super Bowl has one of those great passers. They are truly invaluable parts of a franchise, so unless Miami is willing to give up three or more first round picks, two or more second rounders, and at least two starting caliber players in return, the concept of trading Deshaun Watson is simply not even worth entertaining. Even if Tua can turn it around, you can only hope he’ll become half the quarterback Deshaun Watson is right now. Unfortunately for the Texans, they might not even have the choice of turning away.
What makes all of this even worse is the confirmation that Easterby was behind everything. Initials suspicion of his fingerprints being all over the controversial Caserio hire and the strange timing of it have been proven correct. His actions have bewildered employees, angering some to the point of wanting to resign, and alienated the most important player in franchise history to the point that he may leave. Everything is in question now.
Hopefully, this is all just smoke. Watson is frustrated and is probably considering his options, but things should cool off in time. A calming meeting with Caserio and a good hire at head coach could write a peaceful end to this strange storyline. It can be hard, but remaining level-headed is the preferable route when reading tweets like these. Admittedly, the ongoing presence of Easterby throws a wrench into any sort of calming thought process. As I mentioned before, Easterby is a rogue element who will do ANYTHING to consolidate power in this organization. Trading Watson could provide another opportunity to do so, as strange as that sounds. He must be stopped before he ruins anything else.
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