Last Friday, in this space, I put together an odds board on the permanent general manager solution for the Houston Texans. About half the scenarios on the board involved some method of eventually acquiring New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel, Nick Caserio.
As you all know, Caserio was the Texans' original target to replace Brian Gaine, but that went up in smoke several days ago, amidst reports of unbreakable terms in Caserio's contract with the Patriots and rumors of tampering charges against the Texans. Ironically, one of the focal points at the center of the tampering allegations was Texans Executive Vice President of Team Development, Jack Easterby. I say "ironically" because (a) now Easterby is part of the management team (along with Bill O'Brien and Chris Olsen) that is acting as the team's interim general manager, and (b) I made making Easterby the permanent GM a choice on the odds board:
Make Jack Easterby the general manager ... +1,200
OK, now we are down the rabbit hole. Gregg Bedard, founder of the Boston Sports Journal website, basically proposed that Texans EVP of Team Development, Jack Easterby, a chaplain by trade, is hatching some nefarious scheme to become an NFL general manager. I'll let Bedard take it from here:
"And in keeping with Billions, sources have not ruled out that this entire Caserio scheme was put in motion by Easterby/Lamonte — and that Bill O’Brien, Caserio and the Krafts were unknowing pawns in Easterby’s power play. Easterby knows all of the particulars involved intimately. He could have coaxed O’Brien and owner Cal McNair to make a play for Caserio, despite knowing Caserio’s contract status. Easterby would have known that making a play for Caserio around the ring ceremony — a holy day on the Kraft Family calendar — would anger them to no end and possibly lead to warfare against the Texans. The fallout would be the Patriots drawing a hard line and holding Caserio to his contract, and O’Brien balking at sending a draft pick in compensation for Caserio when he would be a free agent in less than a year. That would leave a power void in Houston for Easterby himself to step into once he ingratiates himself in the organization. … We’re only a few steps away from Easterby sidling up to McNair and being in a position to take over Texans’ entire football operations if O’Brien is fired after this season."
Now, to be clear, I don't think Easterby is attempting some sort of nefarious coup, like Bedard proposes above, but I am beginning to talk myself into the idea of Easterby overseeing football operations on a permanent basis, and here are five reasons why:
Jack Easterby is the opposite of Brian Gaine
When hiring a replacement for a position like this, oftentimes, teams (or companies) seek out someone with the opposite pedigree and traits as the person they just let go. It's been widely accepted now that the driving reason behind Brian Gaine's ouster wasn't necessarily his performance in player personnel related endeavors, but he had burned bridges and "eroded" relationships behind the scenes. Additionally, it's fair to wonder just how good Gaine was at creating beneficial relationships with other GM's, given how little maneuvering he did in the draft. In short, Gaine seemed like an introverted, scouting nerd type, who became tough to be around. Easterby is the exact opposite of Gaine — he is not a scouting lifer, he's not soft spoken, he is someone people are drawn to, and someone who's spent over a decade AROUND football, but not immersed in scouting and draft drudgery 24-7, which I think is a good thing. Because.....
Easterby can more than adequately learn the "football nerd" part
I am a big believer that in hiring for any job, you look for people who grade out as an "A" in the unteachable, intrinsic traits, and you can teach them the information they need to perform their job, and teach them how to process that information. (For those of you wondering, before I got into radio and writing here, I was in sales for 15 years, and was hiring and firing people for about half my sales career, so I have some experience in identifying talent. Some good experience, and some bad, just to be clear.)
People who are fearful of taking a former team chaplain and "character coach" and making him an NFL GM will point to how he's not a "scouting lifer" and the fact that he's never had to identify the talent and make the final decisions. Of course, this works under the assumption that making decisions on choosing good football players is (a) something that can't be partially delegated to a scouting staff (who would make recommendations), and (b) something that can't be learned, which is an insane thought. Scouting football players is not nuclear physics or heart surgery. I'm sure Easterby has spent enough time in and around "war rooms" already to have some logical thoughts on scouting players, and what he doesn't have, I'm 100 percent certain he can learn over time.
Undoubtedly, he is intelligent enough to realize what he doesn't know, hire good people in scouting, and properly defer to the people whose opinions matter to him, yet be strong enough to make the final decision. People who don't think Easterby can be a GM give way too much credit to other GMs around the league for their ability, or lack thereof, to obtain a decent "hit rate" on player personnel decisions. It's a massive crapshoot.
Also, it's worth noting that both of the other general managers in town, Jeff Luhnow and Daryl Morey, had pedigrees that were vastly different than the garden variety "baseball lifer" or "basketball lifer" when they were hired. Luhnow was in business consulting and was an executive for some technology companies, and Morey also was a big wheel in the consulting world before joining the Celtics' front office, and eventually replacing Carroll Dawson as Rockets GM in 2007.
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This checks off their "New England" box
The Texans seem to be hellbent on creating their own version of the New England Patriots, but with much more humid weather and less annoying accents in the fan base. Easterby most certainly checks off the "Worked for the Patriots" box. (For the record, he also checked off the "May have tampered with the Patriots" and "Really, REALLY pissed off the Patriots" boxes, as well.)
Easterby already has respect in the building
To be clear, I don't think a shorter ramp up period should be THE main reason why you promote someone from within, someone who has already built and nurtured beneficial relationships with his peers, subordinates, and bosses. However, it's certainly doesn't hurt. Any new general manager from the outside is going to have a ramp up period to build those relationships with his coworkers, and for the Texans to learn what he's all about through the 2019 season. Easterby has quickly accomplished a lot of that discovery and bonding with coworkers. For what it's worth, everybody seems to love him over at NRG Stadium.
This ends the drama and speculation for 2019
While I'm not against the multi-person power structure it appears the Texans are moving forward with for this season, I can definitely see where it will become something that O'Brien will get annoyed answering questions about in the preseason, and it will loom like a dark cloud over the team, if things go sideways in 2019, which they very easily could given the schedule the first two months of the season. Promoting Easterby and making the GM role part of his title permanently will have a settling effect on the 2019 season, and after the initial wave of questions, it will blend into the backdrop of 2019, regardless of how the team performs. Clarity is not nearly as s sexy a topic for us media types as the uncertainty the Texans are enduring right now.