With Nick Caserio, longtime Patriots assistant, accepting a six year contract to be the Houston Texans’ general manager, echoes of foul play have traveled around NFL Media circles. Drama just always find its way to NRG Stadium.
The hiring process Cal McNair and the Texans undertook to find their new manager was thrown into controversy when Nick Caserio was hired despite Caserio not even being on Houston’s final list of candidates:
The #Texans interviewed Matt Bazirgan, Trent Kirchner, Omar Khan, Louis Riddick and were scheduled to interview Scott Cohen. Sources say those five were on the final candidate list search firm Korn Ferry presented to the team.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 6, 2021
Nick Caserio was not.
Jack Easterby is a wizard.
Because of Jack Easterby’s connections to New England, many naturally connected the dots. This, however, stirs even more confusion, since the common belief leading into this search was that Easterby’s impact and control of the matter was “overhyped:”
Take 2 because I'm a moron who tweeted the wrong video— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 2, 2021
From @gmfb Weekend: #Texans exec Jack Easterby's power in the organization might have been overhyped in the NFL rumor mill recently. Sources say his role moving forward is TBD and could be determined by the next GM. pic.twitter.com/a3VEQUL5ny
This was tweeted by NFL Insider Mike Garafolo on January 2nd. Upon Caserio’s hiring three days later, it was clear Easterby’s role in this search was actually not overhyped at all.
Easterby’s sudden involvement in Houston’s General Manager search not only blindsided fans, but NFL insiders as well. For a long while, it was believed Easterby was taking a reserved role in this search; his fate within the organization would be decided by the incoming GM. Well...that could have been true. Seeing as Caserio’s rise up the candidate list was apparently swift and clandestine, Caserio’s hire may have been Easterby’s last ticket to saving his skin:
One other note here: Sources say Cal McNair told candidates during their interviews he would let the next GM decide Jack Easterby’s role with the #Texans going forward. So unless Nick Caserio is pushing a Trojan Horse into their building, Easterby is solid. https://t.co/AWaFukAisQ— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 6, 2021
So how did the #Texans land Nick Caserio so fast without #Watson involved?— Raheel Ramzanali (@The_Raheel) January 8, 2021
"At some point Monday Jack Easterby got very very concerned that his 'job could potentially be on the line if the wrong guy was hired'" -@LanceZierlein today on #NoLayups @DavidNunoABC13 @abc13houston pic.twitter.com/t39ppSiaMA
Of course, most of this is old news. What isn’t, however, is Watson’s dissatisfaction with his treatment by the organization during this search. Mike has already written about Watson’s rumored potential trade demand, which may or may not be a way of airing his grievances to ownership.
Today, further reported developments within Houston have tied together these two threads in a more satisfactory way:
#Texans QB Deshaun Watson is extremely unhappy with the organization after owner Cal McNair informed him he would be involved in the GM and coach hiring process and provide feedback… but then did neither in the hire of GM Nick Caserio, sources say.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 8, 2021
Watson apparently met with ownership in an attempt to start a conversation between the higher-ups and the players about how the organization should move forward. These discussions included a list of potential head coaches and general managers that Watson liked. His input, and by proxy the players’, was ignored when the Texans hired Caserio. ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter writes:
Watson offered his input on potential general manager candidates, but the Texans neither considered nor consulted with those endorsed by their franchise quarterback, league sources told ESPN.
Additionally, the Texans did not inform Watson that they intended to hire Caserio, and he found out about the hire Tuesday on social media. That contributed to Watson taking to Twitter that night to post, “some things never change....”
Watson’s feelings were not directed toward Caserio, sources told ESPN, but instead were indicative of the way business was again conducted by the Texans.
This explains the rift between Watson and Texans’ brass that has formed recently. Details of this fracture continue to drip out to the public as days go by without much communication between both groups:
This salt between the franchise and its franchise player, with the organization apparently intent on displeasing its franchise player, has now broached into the other important hire of this offseason: head coach.
Texans did not request an interview with Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, per sources. They are the only team with an HC opening that has not requested nor interviewed him. https://t.co/eTr7mdz0Gb— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 6, 2021
Watson advocated for Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy—Pat Mahomes put in a strong word for EB with Watson—and the Texans didn’t even put in for an interview with Bieniemy.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 8, 2021
Easy to see where he’d feel like they were just placating him by telling him he’d be involved. https://t.co/F3cTcyJkFU
While it’s still unknown at the time of writing all of the head coaching candidates that were on Watson’s shortlist, it’s clear Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy was one of them. Bienemy is a very popular candidate in practically all NFL circles, and not without reason. Since becoming offensive coordinator in Kansas City in 2018, Bienemy has helped construct an unstoppabale high-flying offense, turned Patrick Mahomes into a MVP, and the Chiefs are a Super Bowl winner. Literally every other NFL team in search of a coach has already interviewed him. Not even offering said coach an opportunity to be interviewed is not only a gross oversight by Houston, but a jab at the franchise quarterback who made it clear he’s interested in him.
At this point, it doesn’t feel accidental anymore. It feels almost intentional that he Texans have blatantly ignored their star player’s wishes despite pledging to abide by them beforehand. Deshaun Watson’s refusal to communicate with the team riht now is a completely appropriate response to an organization as hypocritical as this. While the culprit of these actions is currently unknown, some have already taken a guess as to who should shoulder the blame.
Easterby has his fingerprints all over this. The danger of being fired (dependent on which new face would be brought in), the abrupt hire of Caserio and their New England connection to secure his job, the complete disinterest in interviewing the most popular coaching candidate in the league who is also on your franchise player’s preferred list just absolutely stinks of another hackneyed effort by Easterby to fortify his position and continue running his empire in the AFC South. From the ashes of Bill O’Brien, as a castaways of Bill Belichick, Jack Easterby seeks to continue to control an organization in his own image by whatever means necessary.
This story is far from over, especially because Jack Easterby appears to be the dark pit in the center of it all. After O’Brien’s firing and Easterby’s temporary promotion to general manager, I wrote a piece on Easterby’s ability to utilize the media to spin a narrative in his favor. Easterby has a strong reputation among NFL circles of being extremely adept at utilizing his media contacts to throw dirt on his enemies and shower praise on himself. In October, he did just that to kick Bill O’Brien out of the building and assume full control of the organization. Easterby also used it to justify trading DeAndre Hopkins, who he had no reservations to disparaging in private meetings. I can only imagine he’s applying something similar during these coaching and managing searches. The greatest fear is that Easterby may eventually apply to justify dumping a “certain quarterback who has resisted the culture we have been trying to establish here in Houston.”
It’s not just a chance that Easterby may be already utilizing his public and private media contacts to realize his vision (which now could mean losing Deshaun Watson). With Hopkins, reports of him being on the trade market date back to before the 2019 season and lingered until March 2020, when it finally happened. If something similar were to happen to Watson, how long these rumors would swirl would before Watson’s final game in Houston is unknown. It’s possible Watson survives this power struggle because of his importance to the team’s success. It’s also possible he could be traded before the 2021 season even starts. This is all just speculation (bordering on conspiracy theorizing), but Easterby’s malignant eminence has now caused a rift where one should never exist. It should have everyone legitimately frightened of what Easterby could pull off next.
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