Boy, with the recent blizzard of negative publicity — searing media stories with headlines blasting “Houston Has a Problem” and “The Chaplain Who Won a Power Struggle and Plunged a Franchise into Chaos” or, that the team is on the “brink a colossal organizational failure” — I’ll bet the Houston Texans wished they had a seasoned, respected, and award-winning media director to handle damage control.
Oh yeah, that’s exactly what they had in Amy Palcic, but she was fired last year. Reason: She “wasn’t the right culture fit.”
What exactly is the Houston Texans culture these days? According to national outlets such as Sports Illustrated, it's an evolving story that day-by-day is spinning out of control and it's all bad news. Apparently, the culture is players disliking and distrusting the team executive specifically charged with managing the team’s culture.
It’s that same executive whose resume has more fudging than the Keebler Cookie Company. It’s that executive, according to media reports, who’s accused of authorizing illegal practices and hiring private eyes to follow players in their private activities.
It’s that executive who’s accused of intimidating employees who trash him to the media and threatening to sue media outlets such as Sports Illustrated.
It’s that executive who is accused of imposing his religious fervor on lower-ranked employees.
It’s that executive who has created a culture where gifted quarterback Deshaun Watson is said to want a trade out of Houston. (ESPN's Adam Schefter notes that there are already internal conversations about where Watson would end up. Meanwhile ESPN's Mike Greenberg makes a case for The Big Apple.)
That executive is Jack Easterby — who has been called a "backstabbing, butt-smooching bs’er" — who seems to have a Svengali hold on Texans chairman Cal McNair.
If it comes down to one stays and one has to go between Watson and Easterby … hmmm, let’s see. Deshaun Watson threw for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. Jack Easterby, zero and zero.
Last week, Texans legend Andre Johnson, who usually speaks up less than magician Teller, tweeted: “Since Jack Easterby walk into the building nothing good has happened. For some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”
That “someone” would be Texans chairman Cal McNair, who continues to support Easterby despite all the accusations and revelations hurled Easterby’s way.
By the way, Easterby has not sued any media outlet that is publishing stories about his bullying and sneakiness. And he won’t sue because that last thing he wants is to be put in a witness chair and swear to tell the truth.
In the past 12 months, with Easterby sticking his nose in McNair’s ear, the Texans have managed to alienate and infuriate superstar Watson: trade All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and create a losing, uninspired clubhouse that has favorite son J.J. Watt wanting a trade to leave his beloved Houston.
It’s not like Easterby is some mad genius who somehow produces spectacular results despite his unorthodox tactics. The Texans finished 2020 with a disastrous 4-12 record, with little to show for it, not even a top draft pick to honor their futility.
The Texans are clearly in need of divine intervention, and not from huckster Easterby, whose degree is in sports management from Newberry College. Easterby is only dimples and wavy hair short of being a TV preacher.
You can’t deny that Easterby is an inspiration. He recently inspired a public protest on the sidewalk outside NRG Stadium and signs swaying over Southwest Freeway with the same message: #FireJackEasterby. Watson asked his supporters not to attend the rally due to COVID precaution.
Then there’s the case of Deshaun Watson v. Cal McNair.
Watson was born into an economically disadvantaged family and has worked for, and deserves, every penny he is paid. He is a champion.
Cal McNair found the Houston Texans under his Christmas tree in 2018 after his father Texans original owner Bob McNair died.
Watson is an extremely bright and sensitive man who is deeply involved in social issues off the field. Last year, during the summer of racial upheaval in America, he led the charge to have the name of a former slave owner removed from a building on his alma mater Clemson’s campus.
McNair hardly ever speaks in public and his stumbling, confused performance at a press conference to announce the hire of general manager Nick Caserio showed why. It’s rare when a team owner has to apologize after making what should have been a happy statement promising fans a better future. However, if a stage production of the Beverly Hillbillies ever goes to Broadway, we’ve got our Jethro.
Many times when a player gets into a public spat with a team owner, it’s a dumb jock player vs. the super-smart business man who owns a billion-dollar company. It’s usually over money. And the public typically thinks, “just get rid of the ungrateful, overpaid and greedy player.”
Not this time. Watson already got his — four years at $156 million. This is a war of morality. Watson is the hero here, McNair the fool being played by Easterby, who like Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “has a lean and hungry look.”
If it came to a public vote between Watson and McNair (Easterby), Watson’s landslide win would rival Kim Jong-Un in North Korea … or LeAnn Rimes on The Masked Singer.
It’s unfair to call McNair and Easterby polarizing figures because polarizing implies that there are two sides to the issue. There is only one side. Houston loves Deshaun Watson and wants McNair to sell the team, right after he fires Easterby.
Seemingly the only defender rushing to Easterby’s side is a Twitter account allegedly owned by Easterby under a fake name. If it is a burner account, Easterby has a whole lot of faith in himself.
Although football insiders say that Watson is all but out the door at NRG Stadium, there is still a chance that McNair could save the day, and do what is needed to keep Watson in Texans’ gear. And that would be to fire Easterby. Now.
Sadly, given McNair’s repeated pledges of loyalty to Easterby and insistence that criticism of Easterby is unwarranted, Watson’s leaving Houston gets more likely each day. Andre Johnson had it right … “pathetic!!!”
Three exclamation points.