Texans “flatter” management structure falls flat on its face

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Saturday’s whirlwind of transactions provided the first real test for Houston’s new-look, no-G.M. front office. The grade for the “flatter” management structure: A big, fat F.

Through not just one but two disastrous trades, the Texans not only botched their divorce from Jadeveon Clowney but also authored a mini-Herschel Walker fiasco that mortgages the future and complicates the process of hiring any G.M. who has real options in 2020.

The blame lands nowhere but on the desk of Cal McNair, who is now running the franchise following the passing of team founder of his father, Bob McNair. Cal McNair signed off on that clumsy plan to fire G.M. Brian Gaine and lure Nick Caserio from the Patriots, as if taking from the Patriots an employee they are intent on keeping ever works. Along the way, the Texans frustrating the Fritz Pollard Alliance by interviewing a pair of minority G.M. candidates for the job (Martin Mayhew and Ray Farmer) before deciding not to hire anyone.

The situation went sideways once the Texans hired from the Patriots an employee they definitely didn’t want to keep: Jack Easterby. He’s a former chaplain turned, well, something other than a chaplain but lacking the chops to do the job he now has, whatever it may be. It utimately entails significant influence with minimal accountability, since he can always claim (after one of the decisions he influences goes poorly) that he’s not a “football guy.”

At a time when some think that Sunday’s doubleheader of deals that may rip out the heart of the franchise are the result of coach Bill O’Brien operating without the balance that comes from having another strong voice in the organization, others believe that this isn’t simply Easterby failing to be O’Brien’s foil but Easterby subtly taking charge and imposing via whispers to McNair a vision for the roster that Easterby has crafted without having, you know, the skills, abilities, or experience to do so.

Let’s start with the trade that sent Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle. The failure of the Texans to trade him before July 15, the deadline for signing Clowney to a long-term deal, made Clowney less attractive to a new team, since the new team was getting, as a practical matter, a one-year rental. So the Seahawks wisely viewed Clowney as a one-year rental, and they negotiated with the Texans accordingly.

The initial terms — a third-round pick, linebacker Jacob Martin, and pass-rusher Barkevious Mingo — seemed a little rich, even though Mingo probably would have been cut, anyway. Sunday’s news that the Texans are paying $7 million of Clowney’s franchise tender of nearly $16 million makes it a great deal for the Seahawks. They get Clowney for one season at nearly $9 million, dibs at signing him to a new deal after the season (they’ve agreed not to restrict him with the franchise tag), and they’ll be eligible for a compensatory draft pick in 2021 that could climb as high as the third-round pick they sent to Houston for 2020.

So the Texans are buying a 2020 third-round pick and two players (one that probably could have been signed as a free agent) for $7 million. If the Texans simply hadn’t tagged Clowney in the first place, they could have gotten a 2020 third-round compensatory pick, without paying the $7 million. (If they’d simply rescinded the tender, there’s a chance they still would have been eligible for a compensatory pick in 2020. The answer to this isn’t completely clear; different people from different teams have different views on whether a compensatory pick would have been available.)

Thus, the Texans shouldn’t have applied the tender in the first place, and they should have rescinded the tender in lieu of doing the deal that was done on Saturday (even if they wouldn’t have gotten a compensatory pick by rescinding the tender in late August).

Then there’s the trade that made everyone quickly forget the Clowney debacle, and not in a good way. To get tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills from Miami (along with a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-rounder), the Texans gave up their 2020 first-round pick, their 2021 first-round pick, their 2021 second-round pick, tackle Julien Davenport, and cornerback Johnson Bademosi.

Even if there’s any way to defend the value the Texans got in exchange for the picks they surrendered (there isn’t), the fact that they did the deal without a long-term extension for Laremy Tunsil boggles the mind. Given what the Texans surrendered to get Tunsil, Tunsil and his agents will have the bulls by the balls (and then some) when it’s time to negotiate a new deal.

The league is buzzing about the level of ineptitude that these deals demonstrate. But few are surprised. The General Manager is gone, the coach (who has shown that he is a very good coach) isn’t a personnel specialist, and the guy who has finagled a path from chaplain to inner circle lacks the capacity to even begin to understand how the job is supposed to work.

Cal McNair boasted in July that the team will have “flatter organization with a faster management style” and that the “organization is totally re-energized with a team-based approach and new leadership based on sub programs with each sub program being fully optimized as a goal.” It was a confusing talking point when it was articulated by McNair, and it’s more confusing now.

Given the long-term impact of Saturday’s moves (along with the lingering presence of Easterby), it will be incredibly difficult for the Texans to hire the kind of G.M. they need in 2020. Whoever that G.M. is will surely have a chance to be a G.M. somewhere else next year, or to wait for another opportunity in 2021.

52 responses to “Texans “flatter” management structure falls flat on its face

  1. This ain’t no Herschel Walker transaction. Seattle did not give up much, and Houston was going to lose Clowney in 1 year anyway since they were determined not to sign him to a long term deal.

  2. Miami’s next two drafts are going to be very exciting.

    Hopefully, they don’t blow it……

  3. It’s not typical that everyone sees a trade as being one sided. Other than a handful in Houston though, this is one of those times.

  4. californianewton says:
    September 1, 2019 at 12:34 pm
    This ain’t no Herschel Walker transaction. Seattle did not give up much, and Houston was going to lose Clowney in 1 year anyway since they were determined not to sign him to a long term deal.


    He’s not talking about the Clowney deal. The Tunsil deal is the “Walker” deal. No one in their right mind would’ve given up that much draft capital for a left tackle. It’s insane.

  5. They’ll have a hard time next year too. Nobody want to take a gm job where they cant pick until round 3. Especially by then, tunsil, Watson, watts and Hopkins will all either have new, big money deals, or will be in line for them

  6. This team is destined for doom. Not going to win it all as constructed and have just mortgaged the future by trading away all those draft picks. O’Brien is like a kid in a candy store now and you have to feel bad for Texan fans because there is no way this ends good for them and it will take years to reverse this damage.

  7. The way you’re crapping on Easterby, he must really have pissed you off or the dude leaking you inside information

  8. Smart move was to give the draft compensation to the Pat’s for the guy they wanted in the first place (Casario). It’s what Kraft did to the Jets with BB. Now with Easterby and O’Brien in charge,it’s going to need a rebuild before they’re done.

  9. redclaw1314 says:
    September 1, 2019 at 12:29 pm
    If I were a gm of the other 31 NFL teams then I would be on the phone immediately with the Texans to do some business.

    Problem is the Texans are running out of resources to do business with. Although I suppose they could trade Watson and Hopkins to a team for an absurd low return in value.

  10. If you valued Tunsil and Stills as 1st rounders (even though you’re not getting them at rookie contracts) then the deal doesn’t look so bad. The quest is why would you value veterans not on rookie contracts as 1st rounders…The Clowney deal was just flat out dumb. Zero foresight used to understand that they would have gotten at least a 3rd rounder and that Ansah probably wasn’t going to make Seahawks roster. Sorry for your losses (and “gains”) Texans fans.

  11. It’s always fun to watch someone elses team implode like this, i wish it had been my team that fleeced them though

  12. Now that they’ve bankrupted their future they should go ahead and file Chapter 11, and emerge as the Houston Oilers and demand an expansion draft just like the Texans got when they joined the league in 2012.

  13. This ain’t no Herschel Walker transaction. Seattle did not give up much, and Houston was going to lose Clowney in 1 year anyway since they were determined not to sign him to a long term deal.
    I think it was referring to the Miami deal.

  14. californianewton says:
    September 1, 2019 at 12:34 pm
    This ain’t no Herschel Walker transaction. Seattle did not give up much, and Houston was going to lose Clowney in 1 year anyway since they were determined not to sign him to a long term deal.


    He was referring to all of the high picks Houston sent to Miami for Tunsil and Stills

  15. Bill o brien can’t make it through a press conference without being blinded with rage at least once. How on earth could he possibly be capable of handling high pressure player personnel decisions? Of course he’s getting fleeced left and right.

  16. Plenty for Clowney. Martin is a high end prospect worthy of the move. Tunsil on other hand seems a bit steep. But you either pay what their asking or get your QB killed again. Not sure Tunsil is that answer but I applaud the effort.

  17. Ok, we get it, you hate Easterby.

    On the merits, neither deal is terrible. They had to carry Clowney on their cap at 16 mil but weren’t getting his services while he was unsigned. A 3rd round pick and couple of backup players isn’t unreasonable for a 1 year rental. The draft pick will be top 100 and could be a useful player.

    Getting Tunsil will help their offense a lot. The future picks they gave up discount to the equivalent of a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in 2019. Agree it would be better to have extended Tunsil but they can still do that. If he plays well in 2019, they’ll make him rich along with Watson. Texans are 4th in league in cap space with Clowney gone.

  18. after the season, when the Texans are looking for a GM – there will be things for a new GM to think about:

    1) – not having two #1s and a #2 severely limits your drafting

    2) Deshaun Watson will begin his last year under his rookie deal. Then he will become much more expensive to keep

    3) JJ Watt will be a year older. How much longer will the team be good.

    4) Tunsil (the LT they traded for) will be off his rookie contract, and his 5th year option will be at $10.3MM (still a below market value price). But after that he is going to be very expensive

    These are some negatives. Prior to the off season, this would be a plum GM job. But in 2020 it will not be.
    A new GM will want a lot of job security, and maybe want a 6 year guaranteed contract

  19. “and they’ll be eligible for a compensatory draft pick in 2021 that could climb as high as the third-round pick they sent to Houston for 2020.”
    Technically not true. Comp picks are always at the end of the round, meaning it is a later pick than then pick the ‘Hawks sent because it will be one of the first 32 picks that they sent (2020 comp picks are not set until 2019 season is over, so it cannot be a comp pick they are sending).

    If the ‘Hawks are the worst team in the NFL (not likely, but anything can happen), they would possibly have shipped the 1st pick of the 3rd round in 2020 to the Texans and their comp pick can be no higher than 33rd pick of the 3rd round. So the difference can be 32 selection spots and a year of waiting. I’d still take Clowny, especially since the Texans are paying part of his tag number. But it is not an full recovery of the traded pick.

  20. I’m thinking that the Texan’s GM position looks a lot less attractive to Nick Caserio today than it did a few months ago.

  21. I’m watching from the outside, but it’s surprising a franchise could get away with so many dumb moves in a state that is all about football.
    I’m thinking all the way back to David Carr getting the hell beat out of him.

  22. Well, there is a reason that we say a team is well-run. Because some teams are not. The coach should have been fired after the profanity laced performance on hard knocks. Not because he used bad language. The use showed a lack of judgment and discipline. Like playing your franchise quarterback when he is not healthy enough to ride on the plane.

  23. Like a lot of people, I thought O”Brien was “a very good coach” for the way he brought the team back from that 2-14 disaster of a season. He did it with a top notch defense, and managing an offense without a starting caliber NFL QB. Did it several years, in fact.
    But that offense had a top notch O line, and a few good receivers. Since then, the line has been mishandled to the tune of it’s best players being long gone. Texans now boast and All Pro level LT – playing for Seattle. A pro bowl guard – who won a ring in Philly. And a solid center – who just got an extension from the Titans.
    They’ve drafted linemen – either outright busts or they just don’t know how to teach them – Rankin was a 3rd rounder and he got cut – now in KC. Davenport was a 4th rounder who is now in Miami. The new guys – both small school tackles – are playing guard.
    What that says to me? As a head coach, O’Brien is as helluva DC. Like Wade Phillips, but not as good.
    And he’s a terrible GM. Blame the preacher-boy if you want, but no way would these deals have been made if O”Brien hadn’t agreed.
    Oh – and don’t forget “Os the Great and Powerful” mess a few years back. O’Brien managed to slough off the blame for that one claiming he wasn’t in the loop – but other people say he was. Has a pretty familiar stink to it now, doesn’t it?

  24. Personally, I liked the trades.

    Clowney isn’t as great as everyone seems to think he is. The guy spent half his career in Houston injured and put up average numbers for being as high of a pick as he was. He’s not worth $20-25 million a year to the Texans.

    Tunsil is a great young “franchise” LT, something that’s hard to come by. Not only did they get him, but they also brought in a playmaker WR and a pretty good RB.

  25. xpensivewinos says:
    September 1, 2019 at 12:37 pm
    Miami’s next two drafts are going to be very exciting.

    Hopefully, they don’t blow it……


    All the evidence says they will. Because, Miami. Find another team.

  26. They got two really nice players in Tunsil and Stills, but lost a better one in Clowney and have middling picks for all the prime picks they lost. AND they ate $7M of Clowney’s salary? Whaaaaaa?

    They are a marginally better team with garbage for long term sustainability.

    I thought the article was a little strong when I read it, but the more I digest it, yeah, these moves are utter garbage. My Fins and Seattle are made sooo much better by these moves.

  27. Right and Westbrook means the Rockets suck, also. Yada yada yada. 2019 and the tough schedule demanded this for success. Booya! Watson has been handed the keys to the Maserati. Thank you Houston and Miami. Two #30s 1st round picks. It’s good to be a Texans fan on Labor Day 2019. Bring it on MNF in the Big Easy. Wow!!!

  28. alonestartexan says:
    September 1, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Personally, I liked the trades.
    The price paid to Miami was stunningly idiotically high to get an o-lineman and a WR, let alone to do so without any assurance of signing them to long term contracts.

  29. rams645 says:
    September 1, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    We should hold judgment until the season is over
    This might very well make the Texans better in 2019, but they’ve mortgaged the future years epically to do so.

  30. You know your team’s management is a raging dumpster fire when they get fleeced by the dolphins.

  31. “significant influence with minimal accountability”. It sounds like Easterby is the Yoko Ono of Houston. If McNair is more than just the Spaulding Smails of this team, he will dump this fraud Easterby and hire a real GM.

  32. It’s pretty irresponsible to lay the blame for this at Cal McNair and Jack Easterby based on theories and suppositions when we literally know the name of the man who made all these decisions-Bill O’Brien.

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