There is always a cost of coming to the party late. One of those costs is that people will obviously groan when you bring up things that have been long discussed. It isn’t our fault that we weren’t here to join in the fun. That seems to be the case with Jack Easterby. To hear most of Houston tell it, Easterby is somehow a cross between Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Joel Osteen, and Rasputin. Yet he would only be a cross between them if you somehow deducted thirty IQ points.
There are obviously reports that he is a bad guy. There are obviously reports that he has manipulated ownership into seeing his view on things. But with the great exception of saving his own neck, I’m not sure what Easterby would gain from purposely running an NFL franchise into the ground. He believes that what he’s doing is in the best interest of the Texans. He thinks he knows.
For our purposes here today, Easterby will serve as more of a cautionary tale. See, “the value of things” is a common phrase I like to use that encompasses everything an organization does. It relates to how we rate players. It relates to physical and psychological traits. It relates to what type of coaches you want and even what executives you want. It relates to who gets paid, where guys get drafted, and who gets prioritized on a roster. These are things we will discuss in due time. Today, we start with the basics. We start with Easterby. He presents two major problems as it pertains to the value of things.
Portability of Traits
The biggest mistake that ownership made with Jack Easterby, and that Easterby has made since he has been here, is the fallacy of the portability of traits. What in the heck does this mean? To put it simply, it is the belief that what makes someone a successful manager, a successful teacher, a successful businessman, a successful coach, and a worthwhile human being are all the same.
Most of us are mature and wise enough to understand that people come with strengths and weaknesses. Those are physical traits, but the psychological are much more interesting. Look at the Texans’ past and there’s a prime example at the quarterback position. Was there an appreciable difference between the athletic skills of Deshaun Watson and the athletic skills of David Carr? Watson is faster and more elusive, but Carr arguably had a stronger arm and was generally considered a good athlete. You could argue that Carr had more physical tools than 90% of the quarterbacks in the NFL.
If a 22 year old Carr was standing next to a 22 year old Watson, you’d probably see Easterby pick Carr. He wouldn’t even have to think about it. Carr has good physical traits, was already married at age 22, and was openly religious in the same faith as Easterby. But was David Carr a better football player? Was he a better leader in the locker room? There were reports that he was the last to arrive and the first to leave. Maybe those were unfair, but that was the characterization. Whether Watson worked harder is not that material. He had a natural leadership quality that pertained to football and football specifically.
Misidentifying Common Traits
This is the New England problem in a nutshell. We know the Patriots have been the most successful sports franchise in the 21st century. It’s not even close. That goes across all four major sports. Easterby came from that tradition. Nick Caserio came from that tradition. So did Bill O’Brien. However, just being in the room doesn’t mean they collectively understand what it was that made them successful.
Let’s dispense with the debate and include both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. You could argue they are both the GOATs at their respective positions. The question is why. When looking at either one, you could conclude that they share traits with the greatest of all-time at their respective professions. People like Easterby misidentify what those traits are. They aren’t the only ones. Countless coaches have tried to be surly or a hard ass like Belichick as if that was the common denominator. They’ve tried to run a dictatorship just like him. Except that’s not why Belichick has been the most successful coach in NFL history.
Tom Brady might or might not be a good human. He might or might not be a good family man. He might make a great captain of industry one day. The vast majority of those things have little to do why Brady has won seven Super Bowls. You can look for those traits in a guy and you’ll miss the mark every time. Oh, sure, you’ll have a bunch of great guys. You just won’t win as many football games because other teams look for the traits that matter.
The Value of Things
The value of things extends past football. It extends past sports, but we are a sports site, so we will keep it there. Whether you are looking at physical traits or mental traits, you are looking for traits that correspond with production. We prioritize specific skill sets based on someone’s position and what system they would fit into. We prioritize financial investments based on scarcity and the relative value of those skills. We do this in all the major sports. The ones that do the best job at it are the ones that hold up the trophy at the end of the season.