Texans executive V.P. of football operations and interim General Manager Jack Easterby has gotten his baptism by fire in recent days. Now, efforts are underway in the media to absolve him of any actual or perceived sins.
The first sin seemed to be unbridled ambition. (Although it’s not one of the seven deadlies, elements of it are embedded within several of them.) Texans fans and some in the media believed that Easterby had set his sights on becoming the full-time General Manager.
The perception flowed naturally from last week’s Sunday Splash! report that interim coach Romeo Crennel could become the 2021 coach of the Texans. Logically, if Crennel stays as coach, Easterby possibly stays as G.M.
Texans owner Cal McNair and Texans president Jamey Rootes spent time this week attempting to undo the notion that Easterby would try to keep doing the job he’s currently doing, claiming that he doesn’t want the job. You know, the one he’s currently doing.
The truth could be that, without the backlash that came from the perception that Easterby was subtly planning a power grab, he may have pulled it off. Given the reaction (and, apparently, in Houston the reaction was loud and strong), the Texans had to make it clear that Easterby won’t be the G.M.
But Easterby will continue to be the executive V.P. of football operations. And now, in the aftermath of the door being slammed shut on any and all designs he may have had on trying to extend the job he’s currently doing beyond 2020, Easterby and some of his friends in the media (after all, nothing creates media friendships like access and information traded for discretion) have begun to spin the notion that Easterby is far more valuable to the Texans not as the G.M. but as a jack-of-many-trades relating to the challenge of making sure everyone gets along and everyone feels good and everyone is adhering to whatever “culture” recently-fired P.R. director Amy Palcic supposedly didn’t fit.
Those efforts to persuade members of the media to write favorably about Easterby, culminating in lengthy and positive profiles in both ESPN.com and the Boston Globe, have overlooked the second potential sin. The one arising from the potential bearing of false witness, via the puffing of credentials and/or the embellishment of experiences that supposedly qualified him to be the executive V.P. of football operations for an NFL team.
Easterby’s lone piece of relevant football operations background came in 2004, when according to his online bio (as of March) he served as the assistant to the director of football operations for the Jaguars. At some point since March, that element of his online bio was dramatically softened. After PFT asked the Texans when and why the change was made, the Texans incorrectly told PFT that the change was made last year.
Then comes the impression Easterby created that he actually worked for the Chiefs, an impression that trickles into the ESPN.com profile. He didn’t. The Chiefs paid for his travel as he went back and forth on the weekends to and from Kansas City, but the Chiefs did not pay Easterby for his services when he otherwise worked as an assistant athletic director at Newberry College. His Texans bio never mentions working at Newberry, possibly because doing so would have made it more clear that his perceived job with the Chiefs wasn’t an actual job with the Chiefs.
Finally, there’s the information uncovered by SI.com regarding Easterby’s supposedly being entrusted with over 50 coaching searches for power-five universities and mid-major schools. The claim, made in Easterby’s bio on the website of a group known as The Greatest Champion (the website curiously remains in maintenance mode), seems like a stretch at a minimum. How and when could someone who graduated college in 2005 have been entrusted with that many coaching searches for that many schools in that period of time?
The Texans presumably are aware of these issues, and the Texans presumably don’t care. That has caused plenty of media members to not care, either. As one writer explained it on Saturday, “It’d be a different story if they reprimanded him or whatever, but if they don’t care, then it’s minor enough that I don’t really care.”
Here’s why people should care, even if the Texans don’t. These jobs are rare. These jobs are lucrative. Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com reports that Easterby is making $3 million per year. Objectively, others who have been in the football business far longer than Easterby have far greater qualiications to be the executive V.P. of football operations for an NFL team.
Complicating matters in this regard is the ongoing failure of the NFL to hire sufficient minorities for major jobs like this. Indeed, the position of executive V.P. of football operation now falls within the purview of the Rooney Rule, requiring at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for the opening. (Easterby got the job before the rule expanded.)
Moving foward, as the Texans prepare to hire a new G.M. and a new coach, one important question hovers over the process: Will the coach or the G.M. report to Easterby or directly to the owner?
That’s a question to which any and all candidates will want to know the answer, because it could cause some candidates with options to opt to go elsewhere.
While there’s no denying that Easterby has value to an NFL team, there’s a curious element to his current status that he, the Texans, and some in the media are working hard to normalize. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, it’s worth keeping an eye on.