Former interim general manager Jack Easterby no longer works for the Texans, effective immediately, according to multiple league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Hired in 2019 as executive vice president of team development, the former New England Patriots' character coach had been promoted to executive vice president of football operations since his arrival in Houston. Now, Easterby, 39, is out of a job with the AFC South franchise.
"It was just time," a source said. "No knock on Jack at all. He did a lot of really good things in implementing a lot of the programs they have in place, but the organization has reached a point where it has a lot of great people to work on these programs behind the scenes to help the players and help the coaches. This isn't like a huge controversy. These things happen in the NFL. Jack will have a lot of great opportunities going forward."
The groundwork for this decision was made several months ago as the organization shifted its direction in leadership increasingly toward a partnership between general manager Nick Caserio and coach Lovie Smith, according to sources.
Easterby had been a polarizing figure, drawing lots of criticism locally and nationally. He also had his share of strong relationships in the building with staff and players, including veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and multiple other players.
Among the things that fell under Easterby's responsibilities; team development, which is supervised by Dylan Thompson, football technology, analytics, sports science, oversight of the football operations budget and the development of all football operations system curriculum.
The Texans later made it official, announcing the move in a statement from Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair.
“I met with Executive Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby and we have mutually agreed to part ways," McNair said. "For the remainder of the season, effective immediately, his responsibilities will be absorbed by our Football Operations staff. We acknowledge Jack's positive contributions and wish him and his family the best in the future.”
One of Easterby's major initiatives was sports science involving the rest, recovery and training of the players to achieve optimal performance. He was heavily involved in analytics. He had shifted to more of an administrative behind the scenes role that didn't involve him making personnel decisions. Easterby has also worked on restructuring contracts in recent years and negotiations to help manage the salary cap, but that financial role had also shifted to Caserio and Andrew Brown.
"My family and I are thankful for our time in Houston," Easterby said in a statement. "We appreciate the opportunities the McNair family has provided us and wish the organization well moving forward."
Easterby was a proponent of interviewing and considering former NFL quarterback Josh McCown for the head coaching position that went to Smith in a promotion from defensive coordinator after McCown received heavy consideration for the job despite only having coached at the high school level. The idea of potentially hiring McCown was regarded as an extremely controversial idea that was ultimately rejected by CEO and chairman Cal McNair.
“That’s really a question for ownership right now and maybe for the organization to talk about later on," Smith said when asked for his reaction to Easterby's firing. "Right now, I’m here to talk about the football part. I’m well-versed on what’s going on with it right now. I hope you understand when things are official, you never talk about anything until it’s official. As I said earlier, there will be information coming out a little bit later on. After things become official, then we can talk about all the things that you like to talk about now. I’m sure you can understand my point of view, too.”
Easterby, who has a close relationship with general manager Nick Caserio from their shared time with the New England Patriots, worked closely with former coach and general manager Bill O'Brien before O'Brien was fired. That management partnership was responsible for some lopsided trades and contracts, including the controversial DeAndre Hopkins trade and other deals, including Whitney Mercilus' $54 million deal.
Easterby helped negotiate Caserio's six-year contract that averages $6 million annually.
Following an 0-4 start in 2020, Easterby became general manager on an interim basis. Easterby a former team chaplain and character coach with the Kansas City Chiefs who has also worked for the University of South Carolina and is the founder of the Greatest Champion Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization, didn't execute a lot of major moves the remainder of that season as he exercised a cautious approach and avoided lopsided trades including a low-ball offer from the Green Bay Packers for wide receiver Will Fuller.
After that season, Easterby, a South Carolina native who was a team captain of the basketball and golf teams at Newberry College, helped guide the search for a new head coach and general manager.
“My relationship with Jack was good just like everybody else in the organization," Smith said. "My dealings with Jack have been great. He’s one of the first guys that I got a chance to talk with before I came down here.”
Ultimately, the Texans hired Caserio and he worked with Easterby for the past two years before the organization moved on Monday following a bye.
The Texans are off to a 1-3-1 start.
"Helping to bring Nick to Houston, that's going to be Jack's greatest legacy, I think," a source said. "He pushed hard and sold hard to help make that happen, and they got that hire right. Nick has been an excellent hire."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.