Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Patterson/AP/Shutterstock (12760245d) Houston Texans executive Vice President of football operations Jack Easterby during player warmups before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, in Houston Titans Texans Football, Houston, United States – 09 Jan 2022
The emasculation of Jack Easterby is complete.
Easterby was one of the worst things to happen to Houston sports, and his 3 ½-year reign as the Texans’ executive vice president of football operations is over. The McNair family fired him over the weekend, and, as far as fans in Houston are concerned, it’s good riddance.
Janice, Hannah and Cal McNair should get credit for finally giving Easterby his pink slip, a move that’ll improve the atmosphere at NRG Stadium for the Texans, who are 1-3-1 and preparing for Sunday’s game at Las Vegas.
Because he was so unpopular, a dark cloud hovered over Easterby. That cloud has dissipated.
Now the McNairs should reach out to Andre Johnson to see if he’s interested in returning to the organization. Johnson, who was a special advisor to Bill O’Brien in 2019 before resigning in August of 2020, has been an outspoken critic of Easterby. And he didn’t rip Easterby anonymously, either.
Bringing back Johnson, the team’s career receiving leader who was the first former player inducted into the Texans’ Ring of Honor, would be a wildly popular decision because he’s so respected by fans and media.
The Easterby firing, first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, set off rejoicing throughout the organization because he’d made so many enemies since he left New England and came to Houston in April of 2019.
Something happened after last season that caused the McNairs to see Easterby in a different light – the same dark light that everyone else saw.
During the offseason, Easterby’s influence with the McNairs diminished. He didn’t have the same decision-making authority. He was seldom seen or mentioned. He was forced into the background. It was apparent Easterby would be gone after the season, but the McNairs didn’t wait, and the Texans’ fan base is giving a 100-percent approval rating.
I pointed out before the first preseason game how the emasculation of Easterby was continuing. He was kicked off the sideline during games for the first time since 2019. Media called him “the high-five coach.”
When the McNairs hired Easterby, he was described as a “Man of God” who had contributed to helping the Patriots win two Super Bowls. He was their “character coach” who was available for players, coaches and others in the organization who needed him as an advisor.
As soon as he arrived in Houston, it became clear to many that Easterby had much grander goals than being a spiritual advisor. His critics said he wanted to run the organization. He helped get rid of others who stood in his way.
In his relatively short time with the Texans, Easterby made so many enemies that many contributed to Sports Illustrated doing two rip jobs in one season.
Easterby got rid of a lot of good people in the organization and replaced them with those who’d be loyal to him. They were in the minority.
I’ve never seen an executive in Houston sports try to take credit and blame others more than Easterby.
Others in the organization would do something positive, and Easterby would claim it was his idea when just about everyone knew it wasn’t.
Easterby leaked stories to his friends in the local and national media but denied to the McNairs that he was the source of the leak.
Last year, Easterby told some members of the media every bad decision had been made by O’Brien.
Easterby used “I” all the time, and “we” wasn’t in his vocabulary.
Easterby infuriated his co-workers by trying to dictate where he had no business dictating.
For instance, Easterby knew absolutely nothing about media relations, and it didn’t come under his jurisdiction. That distinction belonged to team presidents Jamey Rootes and Greg Grissom.
Boundaries didn’t keep Easterby from trying to dictate policy about something in which he was clueless. He made sophomoric decisions that embarrassed the organization, like putting out a player roster with no numbers on it. He scrubbed the team’s highly popular website of everyone but owners, executives and department heads. That mistake has been rectified, too.
The power-hungry Easterby spent six years with the Patriots and became close friends with director of player personnel Nick Caserio. Caserio gave him a strong recommendation to O’Brien, who was in his sixth season as the Texans’ coach.
As soon as Easterby arrived in Houston, he and O’Brien collaborated on getting general manager Brian Gaine fired. With Easterby’s support, O’Brien was promoted to general manager by Cal McNair, which turned out to be disastrous for the Texans because of his terrible personnel decisions.
O’Brien once told the media the Texans would win multiple Super Bowls as long as Easterby was in the organization. Then Easterby back-stabbed O’Brien, leading to his firing. When Easterby was promoted to interim general manager, his power base grew.
Ask O’Brien today how he feels about Easterby, and his friends will say he wouldn’t pick up a garden hose if Easterby was on fire.
Cal McNair promoted Easterby to interim general manager after O’Brien was fired four games into the 2020 season. One thing Easterby did was to sign quarterback Josh McCown and place him on the practice squad.
Later that season, three players and one assistant coach told me off the record they thought Easterby would find a way to get McCown hired once Romeo Crennel finished the season as the interim coach. I didn’t believe them.
Easterby and McCown had bonded through ministries and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They were close before McCown came to the Texans.
Before David Culley was hired, Easterby did wrangle an interview for McCown, whose only coaching experience was as an offensive assistant at his sons’ high schools. After Culley was fired, McCown was interviewed three times. Easterby pushed the McNairs and Caserio to hire McCown as the new coach. And they almost did before coming to their senses and promoting Lovie Smith from associate head coach/defensive coordinator.
Easterby played a crucial role in getting Caserio hired as general manager in January of last year. They have the same agent, Bob Lamonte. When Caserio arrived at NRG Stadium, he had no idea about the overwhelming venom directed at Easterby by fans and media.
O’Brien always told reporters that decisions were made jointly by him and Easterby even though anybody with a lick of sense about how the Texans are run knew nobody told O’Brien what to do, including Easterby.
One reason Rootes resigned was because of Easterby. Privately, he told friends he’d had enough of Easterby’s interference. Grissom experienced many of the same problems.
The McNair family should have pulled the plug on Easterby when they fired O’Brien, but better late than never, right?
If Houston was Oz, fans would be singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead.”
(John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).