By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When Jack Easterby was the character coach for the Patriots, he made for a good feature story about a behind-the-scenes contributor who helped players achieve some sort of spiritual and mental balance while competing for Super Bowls.
Since Jack Easterby has joined the Houston Texans, his story has somehow become one of a power-hungry bamboozler who’s managed to fall upward while securing more influence and standing within the organization.
To say that is a wild turn of events would be a bit of an understatement.
Yet somehow, some way, The Easterby Saga™ still lives on in Houston — long after the firing of Bill O’Brien, and even after the hiring of a new GM in Nick Caserio. It was that latter organizational change that was expected to bring about the end of Easterby being a powerful influencer in the Texans’ organization. Yet because the hiring choice was a former colleague of Easterby, it’s somehow led to enhanced job security for the executive vice president of football operations.
And while this bizarre story has been sizzling in the background of the sports world ever since Deshaun Watson expressed his not-so-veiled displeasure with the Caserio hire, it came roaring to the forefront on Tuesday when a pair of former Texans spoke out directly against Easterby.
First was legendary Texans receiver Andre Johnson. He hasn’t played for the Texans since 2014, and he almost never tweets. Yet for one reason or another, Johnson had this to say about Easterby on Tuesday:
“If I’m [Watson] I will stand my ground. The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”
If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground. The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!
— Andre Johnson (@johnson80) January 12, 2021
That was Johnson’s first non-advertisement tweet since April of 2019. Why he broke a 20-month Twitter silence to send that message is anyone’s guess.
But an endorsement from DeAndre Hopkins — one of the best receivers on earth who was dumped by Bill O’Brien last March, only to see O’Brien get fired months later — added some heft to the swing made at Easterby.
When Dre speak listen. https://t.co/hMdP2rsUJr
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) January 12, 2021
Johnson is the all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns in Texans franchise history. Hopkins ranks second in both categories. Watson will become the all-time leader in franchise history in passing yards and touchdowns soon enough — if he doesn’t force a trade to escape the situation. Their feelings toward Easterby’s involvement in decision-making for the organization are clear, and yet … Easterby remains a right-hand man to owner Cal McNair.
It really is a remarkable story in the sense that … THE HOUSTON TEXANS DO NOT NEED JACK EASTERBY IN ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL. At least, it stands to reason that the Houston Texans do not need Jack Easterby in order to be successful.
Yet despite a clear and obvious distaste of the man from franchise cornerstones, despite a lengthy exposé in Sports Illustrated laying out some eyebrow-raising behavior and some spotty resumé boosts, despite a curious process that led to the Texans ignoring their search firm and instead choosing to hire Caserio, and despite a clear opportunity for a complete organizational reset with a new GM and a new head coach … Easterby just persists.
It’s kind of incredible, a rise from character coach/team chaplain to running an entire football operation in a very short span of time, holding on to a spot when seemingly nobody can quite understand why — and with plenty of public outcry to boot. It’ll make for a fascinating film some day.
For now, Texans ownership seems committed more to Easterby than anyone else. And for as long as that remains the (apparent) case, the Texans organization will seemingly remain an unhappy mess.