Since the DeAndre Hopkins trade, Houston Texans fans have been very antsy about hearing from the head coach and general manager of the team, Bill O'Brien. They have a lot of questions for him, and for ownership, over why the best football player on the team and the best wide receiver in football was traded for a package that ostensibly makes the team worse in 2020.
It's been three weeks since the trade went down, and until Friday, we'd heard nothing from the Texans' camp. The Coronavirus pandemic and "stay at home" edict is no excuse, as all three other general managers in the AFC South have conducted teleconferences with virtual, assembled media. The Texans, meanwhile, have been kicking the can down the road.
Ultimately, the road came to some sort of a dead end on Friday afternoon, as the Texans conducted a conference call with season ticket holders to give them, the paying customers, first crack at hearing from O'Brien. To call it a conference call is actually a misnomer — it was more like a fireside chat where the audience was muzzled. Texans play by play voice Marc Vandermeer did about six or seven minutes with team chairman and owner, Cal McNair, and then a 17 minute conference call with O'Brien and EVP of Football Operations Jack Easterby (Easterby's first public comment of any kind since being hired over a year ago).
If the goal was to somehow assuage their largely irate fan base, the Texans appear to have missed their mark:
After yesterday’s #Texans Roundtable with Cal McNair, Bill O’Brien and Jack Easterby how do you feel about the direction of the organization? @SeanTPendergast @SethCPayne @LopezOnSports @ClintStoerner @RonnieHSHOW— Landry Locker (@LandryLocker) April 4, 2020
The VAST majority of the fans replying to this poll from my SportsRadio 610 colleague Landry Locker feel worse or the same about the team after that call, and let me assume that the ones who feel the same didn't feel all the snappy to begin with. Here are my thoughts following this curious Friday misfire by the Texans.
The anger numbers aren't the most important numbers... these numbers are....
Make no mistake, you'd rather have happy customers than disgusted, furious customers, but the number that should really matter to the Texans, on the business side if nothing else, is the percentage of season ticket holders who (a) actually dialed into this thing on Friday, and (b) stuck around after Cal McNair told them, basically, how thrilled they should be that their head coach traded away one of the most popular players in team history for a club sandwich. (More on that in a second.) We will never know what those exact numbers are, they'll never be disclosed publicly, but if you're the Texans, you'd much rather have angry, engaged season ticket holders that still care about the team, than apathetic, disconnected season ticket holders who, by the way, are all probably looking at where they can spend LESS money these days.
I wonder how the media members on the Texans' beat feel right now
As I mentioned above, the three other general managers in the AFC South have all done conference calls with the beat writers who cover their team. Until Friday, Bill O'Brien had been radio silent since the NFL combine in February. For the first comments to be in a controlled environment like Friday's cannot sit well with the small army of folks who cover the Texans on a daily basis. This was one of the biggest moves, and easily the least popular move, in team history, and O'Brien's first comments on the deal are buried in a sea of player evaluation shrapnel on the entire offseason on a Texans team conference call. No chance for follow up questions, no chance to represent what the fans really NEED to hear. I can't imagine the John McClains, Aaron Wilsons, and Aaron Reiss of the world are happy about that, and quite honestly, O'Brien's and Easterby's seeing desire to avoid the music rather than face it, is insulting. For anyone thinking that maybe O'Brien is unaware of the public's thoughts on the trade, just know that he referred to the "outside noise" at least twice in this Friday event. He knows, which makes it all the more insulting.
Cal McNair's comment about how fans should feel was the most cringeworthy part of the whole thing
Most of Cal McNair's portion of the call was spent propping up the organization's handling go the COVID-19 pandemic, as a business operations issue as well as an opportunity for charitable endeavors. Hey, the Texans deserve credit for continuing to go full steam ahead on helping others, including the McNairs giving $500,000 and the O'Briens $100,000 to the Houston Food Bank. That is awesome. The one Cal McNair comment, though, that will resonate until either the team wins a Super Bowl or fires Bill O'Brien was this:
Cal McNair: "I would think as a fan, I would be real excited that your leadership of the team can make bold moves ... it's an exciting time for us, an exciting time for the fans."— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) April 4, 2020
Yes, Texans fans have seemed so excited lately. pic.twitter.com/IobWrqRmLQ
In other words, Texans fans, you should LIKE the Hopkins trade because it is bold. I don't know that there was anything O'Brien (or Easterby, now that we know he speaks) could have said in the remainder of this call that could have made fans feel good to begin with, but this comment from Cal McNair really had to feel like a harpoon in the chest of the fans. I expected more of a "I know fully well that DeAndre Hopkins was very popular, but let's wait and see how it plays out." Instead, no mention of Hopkins by name and a "you SHOULD like this" salvo. Very disappointing.
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Jack Easterby spoke, and I still don't know what he does really
Anytime O'Brien has been asked about Jack Easterby, the former team chaplain for the Chiefs and former character coach for the Patriots, now turned EVP of Football Operations for your Houston Texans, O'Brien sort of describes him as his right hand man, a jack of all trades (no pun intended) who oversees pretty much anything not directly related to roster construction. In the three questions for which Easterby was part of the reply, his answers were largely platitudes about character and vague compliments about how great a group of human beings the players are, complete with stories that aren't really stories:
Boy, local media really buried the lede of this conference call. And by that, I mean the part where Jack Easterby talked up the team's camaraderie by nothing how they are "pulling practical jokes on each other" via "virtual, uh, memes." pic.twitter.com/aCiez54Z7T— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) April 4, 2020
So his story is guys are texting each other during the pandemic.... um, cool story, I guess? Look, Jack Easterby is clearly a very smart person, and he may very well be hitting the mark on every facet of his job. I just still have no idea, after that conference call, what his job actually is.