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.
This week the big Texans news was J.J. Watt fleeing this terrible front office and the very same front office giving David Johnson a contract for some reason. I’ve written about both of those topics at length already, so let’s instead focus in on what the Texans primed us for on Wednesday:
Jack Easterby, I will spare you the six minutes if you are busy, does not appear in this video. He has not appeared publicly since last September’s Deshaun Watson extension press conference. The only comments he has offered in public since that point are responses to Sports Illustrated exposes — and not answers, just responses. Texans in-house media goes out of their way to avoid acknowledging that he exists. Despite that, he continues to gain more and more power in the organization, having burrowed deeper into the business side of the organization after Jamey Rootes’ resignation.
I want to talk about the power dynamics of this situation because they are revealing. For the most part — Jerry Jones is a notable exception because he literally can’t help himself — owners do not make a lot of public statements. Some of that is because they employ people below them, like, say Culture Vice Presidents, to make statements for them and their team. Some of that is because, as you may have noticed under the stewardship of Cal’s father, Bob, team owners are really good at saying incredibly stupid shit and creating public relations fires. And some of the second part feeds into the first part because several owners are smart enough to know that nobody wants to hear what they want to say. Words can never override actions as far as trust lost goes, and the best way to shut up a bunch of unhappy fans is to win.
To go back to the end of the second SI article though, I want to give you the quote that matters here: “They got the owner to take the blame for everything. Never heard that.” That’s a major issue here and something that has only grown over the last two weeks: Cal McNair somehow feels like an employee at the company he owns.
Jack Easterby feels like the owner, the guy who says nothing and is letting his football people work under his parameters.
In my role as Senior Easterbyologist of the Internet I have come across many quotes in podcasts and sermons and what not that explain a lot about how all of this happened. One that strikes me as pertinent to this scenario is Easterby’s shift away from public speaking:
A term that Easterby has used in similar talks before — and a reason why he himself is practically a ghost of a person — is “deflecting glory.” By that he means that you shouldn’t want the attention of your works, you shouldn’t relish that. Instead you should deflect your glory to making others look good and, more pertinently for his past role, making God and Christianity as a whole look good.
You see this reflected (deflected?) in how the Texans have pushed their media campaign of late. The Texans are spending a lot of time talking about the community, having Cal McNair out and about on the streets, and just generally talking up his leadership:
At one point last week, here’s what the Texans website looked like as far as media videos:
The players are afterthoughts. This is a team that is about good deeds and human interest stories. Two McNair stories, one thing about twins playing each other on Thanksgiving, and another of the free agent special teams player being nominated for the Walter Payton award. OK, OK, it’s the offseason. The winter storm thing was a big deal. Let’s look at what other teams with brand new staffs are doing, though:
Some football teams, it turns out, realize that their fans care about football. Sorry, I know I’m dwelling here, but it’s jarring to realize that there’s a whole football world out there beyond the Houston Texans that understands that their fans … care about football.
When the Texans released their “Building the Texans,” video, it was immediately apparent that Easterby was doing more glory deflecting. McNair, Nick Caserio, and David Culley were all front-and-center. Each of them provided absolutely nothing to the video about what the actual plan is here, because there isn’t really a plan beyond whatever we’re living through currently is. Drew Dougherty and Deepi Sidhu telling the fans once a week that they can’t talk about the employment status of their higher-ups is literally the closest this franchise has right now to an actual connection with the fanbase. This video fell on ears that have already drowned in the toxic positivity that this organization has embraced. The result was that the social media person got ratioed, again.
Like most of Jack Easterby’s problems as an executive, this is a problem of scope. It doesn’t really matter that you’re a glory deflector when you are preaching or pursuing disciples or whatever. When you have immense power in an organization that is generally perceived as a public trust, though, you owe people explanations. You need to have accountability for your actions. You don’t get to just make an “oopsie, I lost the franchise quarterback’s trust forever” and then nothing happens.
However, when you look at who is in power here. When you look at who chartered the jet to head over and pick up Caserio, who put these plans in place for the assumed Josh McCown takeover as head coach at Some Point When David Culley’s Time Is Up, who is putting the McNairs front and center on media … you quickly realize that actually, you do get to do that. Because you are the power. You don’t have to be the owner in name, and you get to have the cake and eat it too.
It is inherently selfish for Easterby to force other people to answer for him and to hide. John McClain noted on a radio hit on Friday that he’s been trying to get Easterby to answer questions on the record since he became interim GM in early October, so it’s not like the media interest isn’t there. He talks about servant leadership, but won’t serve the fanbase.
Because he’s a coward, you see.
It’s natural to want to believe, as a fan, that something deeper than this is taking root somewhere. That Nick Caserio is going to be taking advantage of the free agency period to ink the kinds of bargain contracts this team needs. That maybe Deshaun Watson will show up and his bitterness will wither away as he spends more time away from Easterby and McNair.
Here’s what gets me: It’s not materially hard to get fans on your side. I have lived through several stupid PR campaigns about bad moves that have done their job. People to this day still believe in the Laremy Tunsil trade, even when one of the picks is third overall. They even got, I would say, at least 25-50% of their fanbase to buy the stupid-as-hell idea that wideout speed mattered more than DeAndre Hopkins. Only the very adamant fanboys are even trying the “David Johnson’s last four games mean he’s actually good!” line on me. Because this team isn’t even pushing that. Hell, they haven’t even announced Lovie Smith as the defensive coordinator yet! They have pivoted to Not Football.
I think largely we’ve been shown by this organization what they care about by what they’ve focused on first. We’ll see some mid-grade signings of people with Patriots backgrounds and maybe a player or four willing to be overpaid to have a story to tell in 2025 for his future media career. But the David Johnson re-signing told us all we needed to know about the direction of the team. They care much more about how good they’re going to make the McNairs look handing out things other people cooked than they care about creating the scenario that would make this team palatable for a superstar quarterback. One decision begets another.
Some football organizations care about football. It may just not be for this one anymore.
Perhaps if Texans fans could brand themselves as a charity in need of assistance, maybe their owner could get some valor from running the organization like he gives a damn about it.
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