Are the Texans Holding Deshaun Watson Hostage or Vice Versa?
Texans Holding Deshaun Watson: Houston Quarterback Deshaun Watson is attempting to stampede his way out of Houston. Following a series of falling outs between the star quarterback and the Texans front office, Watson has requested a trade out of Houston.
The Texans front office, despite promising Watson, failed to involve him in the hiring process of General Manager Nick Casserio and Head Coach David Culley. This appears to have been the final straw for Watson.
After Bill O’Brien was fired following an 0-4 start to the 2020 season fans of the Houston Texans rejoiced. The organization had finally realized that O’Brien was doing nothing but wasting star players.
The Texans had all the pieces to win a championship in the past 5-year window but failed to capitalize. In last year’s playoff loss against the eventual Super Bowl winning Chiefs the Texans held a 24-0 lead but bad coaching decisions from O’Brien lost them the game.
When Deandre Hopkins, the superstar wide receiver and Watson’s clear #1 target, asked for a contract restructure he was traded for an injury plagued running back and a second round pick. The second round pick was then used to acquire Branden Cooks.
Cooks has had a long injury history, a larger salary cap hit than Hopkins but has ties with Houston Vice President of Football operations Jack Easterby from their days in New England. More on Easterby later.
The former coach/general manager/monarch Bill O’Brien is not the only one at fault. The stink runs deep throughout the Texans organization. Multiple players have spoken out to the media about the toxic culture throughout the team.
The first and easily most egregious incident was back in 2017 during the height of the anthem protests. In a meeting between the 32 team owners and players union members former owner of the Texans Bob McNair was quoted with saying “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” when referring to appeasing the players and allowing them to peacefully protest.
Easterby and Down
McNair’s son Cal now runs the team and has embraced the concerns of players better than his late father. With the Texans though, one step forward usually means another two steps back. This next issue is causing players to jump ship out of Houston quickly.
His name is Jack Easterby. If Bill O’Brien was a monarch then Easterby is a religious dictator. Easterby who’d risen from low-level Jaguars intern to Patriots team chaplain to lauded character coach—before making an unprecedented shift into football operations.
Players describe Easterby as an authority figure whose leadership style sows distrust and division, at times flouting rules and straining relationships inside the building.
Supporters and detractors say the same thing though: Easterby has been able to accumulate power throughout his career because of his ability to build and strengthen relationships with powerful members of an organization.
Meanwhile, his responsibilities expanded despite questions surrounding his credentials. Easterby was hired to the Texans as a character coach in 2019 but has now risen up to the position of vice president of football operations.
Now there is no reason to fault Easterby for his religious views, but those who work around him feel that his motives are disingenuous. In an article from Sports Illustrated three Texans employees were interviewed and asked about Easterby.
Two estimated that 85% of the employees do not trust the character coach, the third said it was more like 95% but yet Easterby has continued to rise in power thanks to his relationship with owner Cal McNair.
Following the Patriots 2019 Super Bowl win against the Rams, Easterby was attending the Patriots ring ceremony as a member of the Houston Texans. Earlier that week the Texans general manager was fried. That night Easterby was chatting up with none other than Nick Casserio.
Following that night, Casserio had an interview with the Texans. Casserio would be blocked and a tampering infraction was filed against Houston.
Like other New England assistants Easterby has been trying to recreate the epic Patriot’s dynasty elsewhere. Many have tried and failed. The Texans look to be that next team.
When former New England employees try to recreate the Patriots’ way on new teams, veterans of those teams are often at odds with the sudden shift in ideals. These veterans usually protest and butt heads with their new coach or in this case vice president.
In the minds of these Patriot imitators it’s their way or the highway. This is what we are seeing in Houston. JJ Watt was released, Hopkins was traded, Will Fueler is doubtful to resign with the team, and now Deshaun Watson wants out. At one point these were the core pieces of the Texans now they are “distractions that are bad for the culture” that Easterby is trying to control.
When Deshaun Watson first came out in the beginning of the off-season to voice his frustration, waves were sent across the NFL. Watson had just watched James Harden, another Houston star athlete, force his way out. Now Watson felt it was his turn.
It is not often that a star player, nevertheless a franchise quarterback, becomes available. Houston has come out and said they are not listening to calls for Watson. You couldn’t blame Houston for wanting to keep their All-Pro quarterback look at how many quarterbacks the Browns have gone through.
But to not even engage in talks is just being stubborn. Houston has only 8 picks in the upcoming draft, the first of which not coming till the third round.
The Texans are no doubt in a rebuild. With such few picks available and a number of free agents the Texans are in no position to sit around.
Even if the team wanted to build through free agency that option is almost off the table. The Texans will carry $6 million dollars of cap room into next season.
Texans beat writer John McClain gave insight from Houston’s perspective of a potential trade
“The Rams-Lions trade will have nothing to do with a Watson trade if the Texans do it. They’ll want 2 ones, 2 twos and 2 young defensive starters, at the least. Watson, 25, under contract, great QB, team leader, beloved by fans, pillar of the community.”
While he states that the Rams-Lions trade won’t have influence it does provide an example of what a potential Watson trade could begin at. The Rams traded Jared Goff, first round picks in 2022 and 2023, as well as a 2021 third round pick to the Lions for Stafford.
With that kind of request only a couple of teams have the capital to offer. The Jaguars, Jets, Dolphins, and Lions. The Jaguars can be eliminated due to being in the same division as the Texans.
The Lions just got Goff, his large contract, and subpar play won’t entice the Texans to pull the trigger, but the Lions do have 5 first round picks between the 2021 and 2023 drafts, as well as some young players from the previous regime that could be traded.
Frank Ragnow (OL), Jeff Okudah (CB), TJ Hockenson (TE), and Da’Shawn Hand (DL) are all players that could be combined with picks to acquire Watson.
The Jets are next up. The Jets are in a rebuild just like the Texans but unlike Houston, New York has picks and cap space to facilitate the rebuild.
The Jets own the #2 overall pick as well as the Seahawks first round picks for 2021 and 2022. The Jets lack a lot of young talented players to trade, but they do have Sam Darnold on a rookie contract as a trade chip. Darnold came in with a lot of hype but has failed to deliver.
What blame could be placed on Darnold is hard to come by. The Jets have not surrounded Darnold with an adequate supporting cast and Adam Gase was a dumpster fire as head coach.
Finally, we have the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins seem to have a secret stash of 1st round picks they pull from. The Dolphins had multiple 1st round picks in last year’s draft and multiple in this year’s draft. The Dolphins possess everything the Texans want (even the Texans 1st round pick that would be the #3 this year).
To me the Dolphins are the team most likely to get Watson. They could trade last year’s 5th overall pick quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the #3 overall pick this year, multiple second round picks, and an even next year’s first round pick as well as All Pro corner back Xavien Howard.
For most teams trading this amount would leave the franchise barren, but the Dolphins have drafted well and made plenty of moves to set the team up for this kind of move.