Speculation continues to ricochet regarding the possibility that the Texans and Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee were in some way in cahoots regarding the flood of litigation that quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing.
The talk was largely muted and whispered until Buzbee decided to address at a recent press conference the “silly rumors” suggesting a link to the team.
There continues to be no direct evidence of collusion or coordination or communication of any kind. Perhaps the best circumstantial evidence, in my opinion, comes from Buzbee’s over-the-top effort to deny even knowing the first name of Texans owner Cal McNair. Common sense, as it relates to the way that cases like this typically are handled, suggests that there possibly was some degree of advance communication between Buzbee and the Texans before the first of 14 lawsuits (and counting) were filed.
Buzbee is a prominent lawyer in Houston. He ran for mayor. He posted a billboard in 2014 urging his neighbor “Mr. McNair” to draft Johnny Manziel. Buzbee surely knows that Cal McNair owns the Texans, and Buzbee surely knows people who work there.
It doesn’t require a conspiracy theory to show coordination or communication. It doesn’t mean the Texans wanted to see Watson taken down, or that the Texans instigated the cases. In situations like this, the lawyer will often make phone calls before filing suit, either as a courtesy or out of curiosity. Buzbee surely knew that there was rancor between Watson and the Texans. Buzbee would have nothing to lose by calling someone from the Texans as part of his broader due-diligence effort. The Texans, if someone from the team said anything to Buzbee, possibly didn’t know the depth of the problem. The Texans possibly were frustrated by the corner into which they’d been painted by Watson and his camp.
Tony Buzbee here, a phone call like this could have gone. Can we talk off the record? I’ve got a potential client who tells a strange story about getting hired on Instagram to give Deshaun Watson a massage. Deshaun apparently thought it was more than a massage, and he apparently crossed the line. You ever hear about anything like this? You got any concern or problem with me filing this lawsuit? By the way, there could be others.
Buzbee’s not dumb. Even if he wouldn’t have refrained from filing the first lawsuit if the Texans had asked him not to do it, there’s value in asking questions — especially if Buzbee gets the right person on the line. Under the guise of giving the team a head’s up, Buzbee potentially could have learned something that he could have then used to his advantage.
But here’s the problem. Going “off the record” only goes so far when neither party to the call is a journalist. If, at some point, someone has the power and the prerogative to investigate the matter, neither Buzbee nor the Texans would be able to conceal the communications.
As a practical matter, the chances of that happening are slim. Who would have the jurisdiction or the power to delve into those communications? Watson has far larger problems at this point than whether Buzbee called the Texans before filing suit, and whether that happened has no relevance whatsoever to the pending civil lawsuits.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with those kinds of discussions. When, however, all parties involved do everything they can to paint a picture that Buzbee didn’t talk to the Texans before proceeding, any evidence that such talks happened will prompt the average person to assume that the Texans had a far bigger role than merely receiving advance notice of the looming lawsuits or possibly providing some basic information to Buzbee.
So, basically, I’d bet that advance communication happened. I’d bet that the Texans did nothing to instigate or fuel these cases. And, most importantly, I’d bet that there will never be evidence to show that advance communicated occurred.