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Jack Easterby Can’t Possibly Mean This Much To The Houston Texans

Jack Easterby speaks onstage during the 16th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at ASU Gammage on January 30, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona.
Photo: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Super Bowl Gospel

Deshaun Watson is pissed at the Texans. The fans are pissed at the Texans. Essentially every great player in the team’s history is to some degree pissed at the Texans.

Ultimately, none of it makes a difference unless team owner Cal McNair chooses to do something about executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby, the root cause of that ire. Easterby, a team chaplain and character coach who in only a couple of years has assumed immense power in Houston, clearly has McNair’s ear, as proven by how Nick Caserio became the new general manager even though he wasn’t one of the final candidates. McNair has insisted that Easterby will keep his job and is not the Machiavellian manipulator everyone thinks—which is exactly what someone would say if they were being manipulated, to be fair.

Pride is at play here. McNair promoted Easterby to his current position in January of 2020. He has fired GM Brian Gaine and Belichick cosplayer Bill O’Brien in favor of Easterby. To get rid of him now would be admitting a huge mistake, even though it isn’t too late in the offseason to do so. As a guy who inherited a football team because his dad died, Cal might be averse to embarrassment and very set on being his own man.

But is it really worth all the trouble for McNair to stay the course with a duplicitous, incompetent Jesus freak? This past September, Watson signed an extension that suggested he’d be with the Texans for the long term, but now the quarterback seems to have no interest in playing for the team next season. According to a Sports Illustrated report published Saturday, coming off a 4-12 season, Texans players wanted Watson to function as a team representative and ask McNair for “more unified leadership and a clearer direction.” The QB recommended that management interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for the vacant head coach position. Here’s how that unfolded:

While on vacation Watson learned, according to the two sources, the franchise that said it wanted his perspective had not yet asked to interview Bieniemy (they would, on Jan. 12, two days after the initial interview window for Bieniemy had closed, and only after the firestorm that followed the Caserio twist in the franchise’s ongoing saga). Watson was further upset by the press conference that McNair held with Caserio, in which the owner said he had read reports that Watson was unhappy but noted he had met with Watson several times and “understood his point of view before meeting with candidates.” Watson found this response, according to another of the sources close to him, to be “patronizing.” (McNair told the Houston Chronicle in an article published Friday that he and Watson “connected over text” after the QB returned from vacation.)

The article, written by Jenny Vrentas and Greg Bishop, does a great job of outlining how Easterby turned off practically everyone else in the organization. It also reveals that a number of Texans employees secretly call Cal McNair “Tommy Boy” in reference to the Chris Farley movie about a failson, which is just a lovely detail. This might be the wildest part, however: In an attempt to do damage control for a previous article SI published about him in December, Easterby reportedly told people that the Kraft family, who own the New England Patriots and previously employed him, were behind the article because they own the magazine:

According to three sources, Easterby told multiple people inside the building that he had sued, or planned to sue, SI for defamation, and had therefore been provided with a list identifying all sources for that story. That is untrue: SI has not been notified of any lawsuit nor disclosed the identity of any of its sources.

Multiple people who have worked with Easterby also say that he has told people in both Houston and New England, including the McNairs, that the Kraft family, which owns the Patriots, is behind the negative press about him. Some of these people also say he has spread a story that the Krafts are investors in SI or had directly funded SI’s reporting. That is also untrue: SI has no financial relationship with the Krafts or any of their business ventures, including the Patriots. The Krafts declined SI’s interview requests for that story. Easterby denies telling colleagues that the Kraft family has an ownership stake in SI, and McNair says he does not believe SI is funded by the Kraft family.

If we take all the reporting, the team’s on-field performance in 2020, and the current and former players’ public displeasure, it makes a strong case that Jack Easterby should not be making or involved in major decisions for the future of the Houston Texans. But Cal McNair likes to pray with him sometimes, so, hey, maybe everyone else is wrong.