Texans fans have been angry at Jack Easterby for months. He and Bill O’Brien made several horrendous decisions that we’ve devoted an absurd amount of time to discussing here while they were in charge of managing the team. While “The Easterby Effect” was well known and widely loathed in Houston, I don’t think there was much attention paid to Easterby nationally.
Until last month, when Sports Illustrated published a scathing examination of how Easterby rose to prominence at NRG Park and the catastrophic consequences his influence on Cal McNair continued to have on the Texans. Now everyone knows who and what Jack Easterby is.
Since that article came out, things have gone from bad to worse in Houston. The Texans have alienated their superstar quarterback to the point that there’s speculation he could demand a trade. They completely bungled their search for a new general manager, ultimately hiring a guy who is objectively and totally qualified for the gig but whose most conspicuous trait is his friendship (and shared agent) with Jack Easterby. It is such a mess here that there are candidates for the Texans’ head coaching job—one of only 32 in the world—who would rather not even speak with the Texans about the vacancy. There has been and continues to be a unified, clarion call for Cal McNair to part ways with Jack Easterby; fans and future Hall of Famers alike have expressed their disgust with and distrust of a charlatan who has somehow successfully convinced Cal that he knows best. We are firmly living in a place as Texans fans where satire can almost be taken seriously. Nevertheless, in the face of truly unanimous criticism, Cal McNair announced yesterday that he would not fire Easterby and was not aware of any plan by Easterby to resign.
So, yeah...the Texans are a dumpster fire raging on top of a trainwreck right now. Which means it’s an excellent time for SI to publish an update on its original pièce de résistance on Easterby. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read it in its entirety here. Therein we learn many new, troubling things, including but not limited to:
- Fresh details and examples of how Jack Easterby remains an enormous problem that’s not going away.
- Deshaun Watson is beyond disgruntled, with one person close to Watson saying, “He just wants out.”
- Some Texans employees have nicknamed Cal McNair “Tommy Boy.”
- Easterby has so little credibility within the organization that nobody knows whether to believe anything he says, though some of what he says is provably false (e.g., that all this bad press is because his former employers with the Patriots are behind it, or that he has a list of sources from SI’s original article that he’s going to sue for defamation).
Admittedly, it’s difficult to find any positives in the piece, but I’ll note a couple:
- Deshaun Watson still has not demanded a trade. While the current picture is bleak, I believe the article also demonstrates that the situation has not yet reached a point of no return. Watson’s relationship with the Texans is damaged, but it can be salvaged. Repairing that relationship will require a concerted and coordinated effort. The easiest first step on that journey is getting rid of Easterby before Deshaun has to demand it, because he may very well not feel comfortable demanding someone lose his job even if that’s what he wants. A similarly easy second step? Empowering Watson in the search for the Texans’ new head coach. If it’s a close call between, say, Joe Brady, Jim Caldwell, and Eric Bieniemy, see who Watson prefers and act accordingly. With the way the Texans have ignored his input thus far, I’d rather err on the side of hiring Deshaun’s choice; sure, it may fail, but I’d rather it fail with Deshaun feeling better about the organization valuing his opinion than hiring someone he doesn’t endorse. Thanks to the myriad self-inflicted errors the Texans have committed over the last year and a half, there’s no longer any margin for error when it comes to keeping Deshaun Watson happy. The Texans made this mess, and now they better fix it.
- Jack Easterby is cracking. He may have escaped the reaper in the aftermath of SI’s first salvo, and he may have successfully engineered the hiring of perhaps the only general manager who would not make his termination a condition of accepting the job, but this isn’t over, and it’s not going away. After SI’s initial story, Easterby is said to have made pleas to several players, “often through tears,” for public support or simply vouching for him with Deshaun Watson. How many of those players have you heard back Easterby after his request? Not a one.
Peter King opined—granted, before McNair’s comments yesterday—that he thought the Texans would rid themselves of Easterby. At some point, the time and effort spent defending someone outweighs any perceived benefit of keeping them. Even for Cal McNair.
Jack Easterby isn’t worth the beating Cal is taking. For Cal to have any hope of peeling the bullseye off his back, Easterby’s time in Houston must end now. Whether it’s through a termination or an encouraged resignation, it has to happen. I think and hope this second peek behind the curtain from SI at the dysfunction boiling inside his castle could be a bridge too far for Cal.
Cal McNair is the only one with the power to turn the discussion about the Texans back to football. He has to use that power. If he doesn’t, he’ll lose a quarterback talent the likes of which he’ll almost surely never have the good fortune to employ again. He’ll lose the rest of the players in the locker room. He’ll lose potential free agents who won’t want to join an organization that’s in free-fall. He’ll lose the fans he hasn’t already lost. He’ll become the most despised owner in Houston history this side of Bud Adams.
Cal doesn’t want that. Nobody wants that. Jack Easterby has to go, and I believe it’s going to happen. Not because Cal wants it to, but because it has to for the good of the franchise.