The DeAndre Hopkins trade, and subsequent firing of Bill O’Brien, would have seemed like a valuable lesson for the people who run the Houston Texans, a team that can’t afford to make the same mistake with the talented players still on their roster. But in the search for and hiring of a new general manager, they have managed to repel their Pro Bowl quarterback.
On Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Texans had picked Nick Caserio, the New England Patriots’ director of player personnel, as their new GM. Later that night, Deshaun Watson tweeted, “Some things never change” before eventually deleting it. The hire is reminiscent of the very kind of person the team had fired: While O’Brien didn’t come to Houston directly from New England, he spent a good chunk of his career there and was supposed to embody “the Patriot Way,” a philosophy that becomes amorphous when installed by someone who isn’t Bill Belichick, but mostly means winning games.
There was something specific about the hiring process that bothered Watson, as Adam Schefter reported:
Watson offered input on potential general manager candidates, but the Texans neither considered nor consulted with those endorsed by their franchise quarterback, league sources told ESPN.
Watson also lobbied for his team to interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for the vacant head coach position, but the Texans didn’t do that, either. They were the only NFL team with an open HC spot to not interview a Super Bowl–winning coordinator who at the very least warrants a Zoom call. Additionally, Caserio wasn’t even on the final list of GM candidates put together by a well-compensated search firm:
Another way Mike Garafolo might have reported this out, if he didn’t have the NFL’s arm up his ass, is that Jack Easterby, the former Patriots chaplain who now carries an absurd level of influence within the Texans as executive vice president of football operations, subverted the entire hiring process to convince the team to pick someone he used to work with in New England. While it isn’t common for a quarterback to weigh in on GM hiring decisions, it’s not clear that the guy who sees Jesus as the ultimate competitor should be doing that either:
With the firing of GM Brian Gaine in June 2019 and O’Brien’s ejection after an 0-4 start this season, Easterby was the one left to take power. As a Sports Illustrated article detailed last December, the dude was a “character coach” for the Patriots who may have inflated his credentials a bit, and may have a spot of trouble connecting with black players:
Easterby also began occasionally addressing the team on the nights preceding games, turning the meeting room into his pulpit. But some of his efforts to relate to the majority-Black roster occasionally failed him; in some cases he even caused offense. During one Saturday-night meeting in 2019, Easterby, who is white and cites Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model, asked players to think back to when they were growing up “playing ball with Ray-Ray and Ki-Ki and them,” according to three people in the room for these meetings. Some saw the language as more of a misguided attempt to fit in—players often called Easterby a “try-hard.” But at least one person was bothered enough by what they saw as a use of Black stereotypes that they debated saying something to Easterby. (They decided not to take on that conversation with a game the next day.) A few weeks later, one of the sources says, Easterby used similar language again.
He must have been some kind of character coach!
The bigger issue here is that the person above Easterby would have to see any of these traits—power-mad, unqualified, maybe a little bit racist—as disqualifying. That would be Cal McNair, the Texans owner who held a presser today where said he “understood [Watson’s] point of view” about the GM hiring process and denied that the team was trying to build the second iteration of Patriots South. More usefully, McNair also said Watson hasn’t spoken to him since the hiring of Caserio, and offered this as an organizational philosophy:
It is quite clear that Bob McNair’s failson doesn’t have plans to make anything better. Get Deshaun out of there.