If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.
We have spent many words on Jack Easterby and Jack Easterby’s fate on this blog since October. I am, frankly, exhausted by this situation. I didn’t get into writing about football to write about front office coups. I could’ve done that in politics just fine if I wanted that heat.
I’m not coming into this piece to say anything bad about Jack Easterby — not because I’m worried about lawsuits, but because nothing he does at this point can be surprising. Both Sports Illustrated pieces — here’s the latest — as well as my own fact-finding, have done little but support the idea that he is an agent of chaos. Line up his employment with the Texans in a timeline and it squares straight with this organization firing Brian Gaine and starting its descent into a 4-12, values-obsessed, cultureless, rejected Mean Girls Netflix sequel. I don’t think that warrants death threats, just someone to step up and say enough is enough.
And, more importantly, for those people to be listened to.
Deshaun Watson was in an impossible situation because of the standard quarterbacks are held to. Every Texans fan besides the rumored Easterby burner would rather keep Watson than Easterby, and that’s fine. But the old school mentality that players should never dictate anything to the front office was going to make it almost impossible for Watson to do that and not get widely blasted for it. The idea that a black quarterback was going to take out a religious-minded front office VP — on paper — is the stuff that Sean Hannity’s writers room can only dream of.
Watson has done a lot of maturation in his game over the past two seasons, and took a major step forward this year. In particular, he’s done a better job of diagnosing blitzes and finding his open receivers when they come. He’s always shown a rare ability to take hits, keep his balance, and deliver under pressure. But this season he began to intentionalize the idea that there are hits he shouldn’t take. He has praised the offensive line for playing better and the receivers for getting open — and that’s what a good quarterback should do — but it was his improvement that set the scene for it all.
How much Watson believes that Easterby has to go is probably something that will never be public record, and I’m not going to tell you that I know for a fact that he wanted Easterby gone. But by appearing in the above picture, with this caption, and saying nothing about it, Watson said all he needed to. He read the situation, checked it down to Andre Johnson, and got ready for the next play.
Faced with his choice on Friday, Cal McNair chose Easterby.
Here’s the thing: There’s no amount of words or “agree to disagree” that will ever work here. The thing about agents of chaos, as four years of the Donald Trump White House has taught us, is that there is always a new fire.
When nobody in the building trusts Easterby, what it means is that nuggets like those that appear in the SI piece will continue to leak. Combine that for a national sports media that wants Watson to be a winner, wants him to be a face of the NFL, and has no qualms with trying to “free” Watson from the Texans. What you have mixed together is akin to a rolling boil of canola oil. The job of trying to keep it contained is almost impossible without actually firing Easterby — turning the heat off. Maybe there will be a month where we talk about something else. But, as any Vice Presidents of Communications in the crowd could tell us — boy, the Texans sure could use one of those — eventually when you put something in the pot, scalding oil is splashing out everywhere. What McNair did on Friday is akin to noticing the boil, dumping two packages of fries into it, then running out the door of the house into the Lamborghini and beating a hasty retreat.
Deshaun Watson posted song lyrics on Twitter yesterday and it became near-unanimously known by fans of the other 31 fanbases that it was about how mad he was. Even after he clarified it, what people took away from it was that he was pissed off. This is a situation that doesn’t happen if Easterby just isn’t part of the Houston Texans organization anymore.
It’s a situation that will repeat itself several times in the months to come, and for as long as Easterby is an employee. It’s a flaming dumpster of a PR disaster, and Cal McNair has an extinguisher.
But have you considered how beautiful the fire is?
The thing about what happens in 2021 is that while we have likely had scenarios like the one playing out with the Houston Texans before, we’ve never had the level of access to it that we’ve had. It makes it feel infinite, neverending, like a Ulysses that we are trapped in every day. That impacts fans, yes, but it also impacts players, employees, their families. It impacts Deshaun Watson’s day-to-day life, whereas before it would have been a bad choice that appeared in a newspaper column and didn’t get any traction until Training Camp.
What should happen in a scenario like this is that, eventually, you can’t escape the truth. Fans have been livid for weeks. Watson is fed up. Logic would dictate that you simply remove the problems and obstacles involved with keeping the franchise quarterback happy. The negative energy invited by keeping Easterby is lowering the value of the franchise every instant he is employed.
I wrote about McNair’s inability to grasp what is happening last week. I almost feel pity for him, because he has no idea what he’s in for in choosing Easterby here. I should be writing an article right now on the owner being dragged, kicking and screaming, into getting rid of his best friend who was ruining the franchise. I have tried to not go after him as a person because, well, that’s not actually productive. But his actions continue to paint a more damaging picture of him than anything I could write ever would. Choosing Jack Easterby over Deshaun Watson is the most incomprehensible thing I have ever heard of in my life. It’s like filming a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode that is 100% footage of Guy Fieri in his automobile. It’s the kind of thing that makes fans ask: What exactly are we doing here?
When Cal said in the piece that his religious beliefs don’t dictate how we play football, note that it was not a real answer to the question. Cal is not very good at answering the actual questions that are asked of him, and that’s not a great skill for somebody who has fancied himself a problem-solver. The problem is that the religious beliefs seem to be impacting who gets to stay and help lead a franchise. That is not technically dictating how they play football, but the business around it. It is all semantics in the grand scheme of things — Easterby is here for one reason, and we know what it is.
Cal has mentioned several times that he wants to build a consensus. That was something his father was big on, as well. But if you are a consensus builder, and people believe they should be part of the consensus and are ignored, you don’t actually have a consensus. The fans, the players, the employees and ex-employees that are leaking, the non-Easterby figures in this organization, everybody else seems to be aligned to ridding the team of its major problems.
But the consensus was never actual, it was just another front to hide behind as Easterby systemically stripped the organization of assets as if he were employed by another team to do it. If they somehow bungle away having Deshaun Watson, this organization will become one of the bleakest things in the NFL. I would say that we can get through it, but I read what the readers say. There are people who don’t even want to associate with this team if Watson isn’t here. I will be writing for six people.
Professional sports franchises are unique in that they are a corporation, but one that people actually want to interact with. Even when Bill O’Brien had obviously capped Houston’s upside as a playoff franchise, I had fans coming out of the woodwork to defend him or tell me they thought I was wrong. Sports teams have an imbued sense of community and representation that’s hard to fuck up.
But Cal, bless his heart, he’s trying real hard to prove that wrong.
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