Jack Easterby Longread

nattysez

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The corpse of SI is heavily promoting a long article about Easterby that kicks off with a comparison of him to Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. I find him a fascinating character, so I look forward to giving it a full read -- especially since Jenny Vrentas is one of the co-authors, and she's a quality writer. My initial skim suggests that he's a very ambitious guy who got too aggressive in his efforts to move up the ladder. I figured others would be interested given his history with the Pats.
 

Cellar-Door

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Seems like a clear fraud, and people mistook Bellichick using him as a resource on "EQ" issues for Bellichick thinking he was a useful football ops leader.
 

E5 Yaz

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Easterby told people that Kraft, New England’s owner, had offered him and Caserio, the longtime personnel czar, “lifetime” contracts to run personnel.
But Easterby intimated that he had turned down that offer, lest it look like he was going behind Belichick’s back.
(The Patriots, through a team spokesperson, say such a contract was never offered.)


Ooooooooo ... kay
 

BaseballJones

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Interesting article. I'd be interested in reading the stories about so many other execs and head coaches - I'm sure there would be some similarities in that everyone is complex - every person in NFL positions of power will have people who swear by them and other people who can't stand them and wouldn't trust them as far as they can throw them. His story is unique in terms of his ascent to power from what was a total non-football role in the game, but it's super interesting that BB trusted him and seemed to keep giving him more and more trust and authority (not sure that's the right word, but it might be). BB wouldn't do that unless he thought Easterby was competent at the roles BB had him in. If you're around football enough and you're a smart guy, I bet you can become competent at actual NFL things, even if that's not your background.

Not sure if Easterby qualifies in this regard, but it's possible.
 

tims4wins

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I didn't read it word for word yet, but skimming through, the change from "assistant to the director of football operations" to "assistant director of football operations" during his Jaguars stint is cray-cray. That's Dwight Schrute stuff. It's almost hard to believe it is true.
 

BaseballJones

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I didn't read it word for word yet, but skimming through, the change from "assistant to the director of football operations" to "assistant director of football operations" during his Jaguars stint is cray-cray. That's Dwight Schrute stuff. It's almost hard to believe it is true.
I didn't catch whether *HE* changed the title and nobody in the organization noticed, thus making it seem super slimy by Easterby, or if *THEY* actually changed his title (which would represent quite a jump in responsibility and authority). It seems hard to believe he could somehow slip that by and nobody in the organization would notice that self-changed title.
 

Super Nomario

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A good point here, I think:


View: https://twitter.com/friscojosh/status/1337078719328862208


"The knives are out. Easterby comes off as a classic ladder climbing film-flam artist. But it’s always worth considering who wants him taken out. The cocoon has strong self defense mechanisms.

"If that argument is that Easterby is bad, cool. If the argument is that any non-standard path to the top of an NFL org is untoward and suspect, skip me."

How much of the criticism is valid and how much is the NFL resisting change?


Interesting article. I'd be interested in reading the stories about so many other execs and head coaches - I'm sure there would be some similarities in that everyone is complex - every person in NFL positions of power will have people who swear by them and other people who can't stand them and wouldn't trust them as far as they can throw them. His story is unique in terms of his ascent to power from what was a total non-football role in the game, but it's super interesting that BB trusted him and seemed to keep giving him more and more trust and authority (not sure that's the right word, but it might be). BB wouldn't do that unless he thought Easterby was competent at the roles BB had him in. If you're around football enough and you're a smart guy, I bet you can become competent at actual NFL things, even if that's not your background.

Not sure if Easterby qualifies in this regard, but it's possible.
It's funny - I read another article today that makes the point that there's a lot more to being a GM than we think:
No two days are the same in an NFL front office. So walking in the door with a plan, developed in a vacuum, free from the active constraints of that organization and lacking knowledge of the various crises that will show up so often, leaves most plans as a loose dream of what they want things to be like vs what it will actually be like.

Ask someone who has been a GM about the job, and what they wished they knew beforehand, and they will pour out with anecdotes and insights on all the things they were forced to learn on the job and the things they did not feel prepared for. Ask them about their day to day and they will tell you how they went from spending potentially over 80% of their time watching film and evaluating players in their roles prior to maybe upwards of 30% (on a good day) when they finally reached the GM chair.
If the job isn't as much about traditional football stuff as we think, it's more viable to have a candidate from a non-football background. Easterby isn't the first, either (Sashi Brown, Marty Hurney, Howie Roseman, Jerry Jones, Mike Brown didn't come from traditional paths). But it doesn't sound like Easterby is doing an effective job running the non-football side of things.
 

Silverdude2167

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but it's super interesting that BB trusted him and seemed to keep giving him more and more trust and authority (not sure that's the right word, but it might be). BB wouldn't do that unless he thought Easterby was competent at the roles BB had him in.
My best guess about his interactions and "elevation" from BB was that he was involved in player character evaluations This then allowed him to claim that he worked in football operations. But I am willing to bet that BB and Nick did not let him near the evaluation of a player's skills, contract negotiations, or trade evaluations.

The guy sounds like a snake who was given a piece of cake by BB and went and told McNair that really BB trusted him so much that he baked the whole thing.
 

Cellar-Door

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Interesting article. I'd be interested in reading the stories about so many other execs and head coaches - I'm sure there would be some similarities in that everyone is complex - every person in NFL positions of power will have people who swear by them and other people who can't stand them and wouldn't trust them as far as they can throw them. His story is unique in terms of his ascent to power from what was a total non-football role in the game, but it's super interesting that BB trusted him and seemed to keep giving him more and more trust and authority (not sure that's the right word, but it might be). BB wouldn't do that unless he thought Easterby was competent at the roles BB had him in. If you're around football enough and you're a smart guy, I bet you can become competent at actual NFL things, even if that's not your background.

Not sure if Easterby qualifies in this regard, but it's possible.
Yeah, it seems from his pattern, that his "authority" in NE was probably minimal and like all his previous jobs he wildly exaggerated what that meant. I think he had Bill's ear on a number of issues relating to players in terms of how the team was feeling, concerns about guys, concerns guys had, etc. Bill brought him in to be that guy, to deal with personalities. It also seems pretty clear from Bill's comments that Easterby wasn't particularly involved in the football parts of the job.
 

BaseballJones

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My best guess about his interactions and "elevation" from BB was that he was involved in player character evaluations This then allowed him to claim that he worked in football operations. But I am willing to bet that BB and Nick did not let him near the evaluation of a player's skills, contract negotiations, or trade evaluations.

The guy sounds like a snake who was given a piece of cake by BB and went and told McNair that really BB trusted him so much that he baked the whole thing.
You might be right, but if McNair believed that without doing a full vetting (which he claims happened - the full vetting, that is), then McNair is a grade A moron (which is possible). One phone call to the Patriots asking about what Easterby did would reveal if Easterby was lying or telling the truth about his role. And that's not a lie you really want to be caught in because it would probably undermine any future NFL aspirations.
 

joe dokes

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Yeah, it seems from his pattern, that his "authority" in NE was probably minimal and like all his previous jobs he wildly exaggerated what that meant. I think he had Bill's ear on a number of issues relating to players in terms of how the team was feeling, concerns about guys, concerns guys had, etc. Bill brought him in to be that guy, to deal with personalities. It also seems pretty clear from Bill's comments that Easterby wasn't particularly involved in the football parts of the job.
Right. Minimal (near zero) actual authority and a very narrow focus.
 

Cellar-Door

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Right. Minimal (near zero) actual authority and a very narrow focus.
I think it sounds more like it was minimal authority, and a very broad but shallow focus. In that he was allowed to touch a whole bunch of areas of the team, but within the shallow auspices of "team culture" and "Emotional IQ" related interaction
 

BaseballJones

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Yeah, it seems from his pattern, that his "authority" in NE was probably minimal and like all his previous jobs he wildly exaggerated what that meant. I think he had Bill's ear on a number of issues relating to players in terms of how the team was feeling, concerns about guys, concerns guys had, etc. Bill brought him in to be that guy, to deal with personalities. It also seems pretty clear from Bill's comments that Easterby wasn't particularly involved in the football parts of the job.
Yeah I have no idea how NFL front offices, or organizations, actually work so this is me just totally musing here. But if you are hired to be a character coach (of some sort) and BB allows you to be one of the few people to shoot totally straight with him, and BB trusts you to make character evaluations as he looks at players, doesn't that mean that you're an integral part of the team-building process? As in...if BB wants to acquire player X, and Easterby says don't do it because of reasons A, B, and C - those reasons maybe being that he's not good for a locker room, etc., (or the reverse...sign the guy because he's a great teammate, etc.) - and if BB listens to you on that, then for sure you're a core part of the organization's personnel decision-making process, even if you might not have known the difference between a slant and a square-in.
 

Cellar-Door

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Yeah I have no idea how NFL front offices, or organizations, actually work so this is me just totally musing here. But if you are hired to be a character coach (of some sort) and BB allows you to be one of the few people to shoot totally straight with him, and BB trusts you to make character evaluations as he looks at players, doesn't that mean that you're an integral part of the team-building process? As in...if BB wants to acquire player X, and Easterby says don't do it because of reasons A, B, and C - those reasons maybe being that he's not good for a locker room, etc., (or the reverse...sign the guy because he's a great teammate, etc.) - and if BB listens to you on that, then for sure you're a core part of the organization's personnel decision-making process, even if you might not have known the difference between a slant and a square-in.
Bellichick has outright said that Easterby was not involved in personnel:

Jack’s not a personnel person, no,” Belichick said.
"His role was a varied one. He worked with a lot of different aspects of the organization — players, coaches, support people, so forth.
He was a person who could connect well with everybody, from the owner of the team to the equipment manager or equipment guy that picks up towels and all the people in between. He was a very valuable person in this organization in the time he was here.”


 

BaseballJones

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Bellichick has outright said that Easterby was not involved in personnel:

Jack’s not a personnel person, no,” Belichick said.
"His role was a varied one. He worked with a lot of different aspects of the organization — players, coaches, support people, so forth.
He was a person who could connect well with everybody, from the owner of the team to the equipment manager or equipment guy that picks up towels and all the people in between. He was a very valuable person in this organization in the time he was here.”


So if Easterby fudged his role with NE when the Texans hired him for the GM job, and Texans ownership didn't actually, you know, CHECK IT OUT, then sure, I blame Easterby for lying, but holy smokes what an indictment on McNair.
 

bakahump

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Can someone remind me how he fit in with Hernandez? Before? After? During?
 

Cellar-Door

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So if Easterby fudged his role with NE when the Texans hired him for the GM job, and Texans ownership didn't actually, you know, CHECK IT OUT, then sure, I blame Easterby for lying, but holy smokes what an indictment on McNair.
maybe, or maybe he didn't fudge it, he just said... "I worked with everybody, and the next step is more personnel involvement"
 

Super Nomario

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Bellichick has outright said that Easterby was not involved in personnel:

Jack’s not a personnel person, no,” Belichick said.
"His role was a varied one. He worked with a lot of different aspects of the organization — players, coaches, support people, so forth.
He was a person who could connect well with everybody, from the owner of the team to the equipment manager or equipment guy that picks up towels and all the people in between. He was a very valuable person in this organization in the time he was here.”


I wish I could find the transcript where Belichick says Easterby isn't a personnel person, just to see if there's more context around it.

This article about Brian Decker alludes to Easterby playing a role in evaluating character:
When analytics staffers from various teams gather, conversation inevitably turns to what would be the mother lode metric: a measurement of the will to be great. Nobody has found an accurate assessment. Only two teams -- New England, with renowned character coach Jack Easterby, and Seattle, with psychologist Angela Duckworth, author of the best-seller "Grit" -- even try innovative approaches.
But the biggest problem with Decker's sales pitch was that the Patriots had already more or less bought in. Three years ago, they hired Easterby to interview prospects and implement his own version of character assessment.
The link in that last quote doesn't actually explain this, so maybe the author is just wrong. Or maybe he did play a role, but to Belichick, that doesn't make him a "personnel person."
 

Cotillion

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It's always been true of the Patriots that people are often taking on things outside their space. It's actively encouraged since it's such a small team on the football side (and Easterby was fairly football side as he dealt with people personality of team) that Belichick likes having everyone know about the things are others are doing so that it makes them more likely to be able to give good advice. Ernie Adams even noted it in the most recent video. So I have a belief that Easterby probably touched on a ton of stuff, but it might have just been super surface stuff and not that he had done it long enough to be a guru.

I bet he sold it as if he was a guru that had his hands in everything though.
 

DJnVa

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Can someone remind me how he fit in with Hernandez? Before? After? During?
He was hired prior to the 2013/14 season. Hernandez last played during the 2012/13 season. But Easterby was there when the arrest and fallout happened.
 

NortheasternPJ

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Zolak today said pretty definitively that Easterby is full of shit and when he left here he was basically Josh Gordon's babysitter as his main responsibility. He did other stuff, but he was a baby sitter and a narc for BB.
 

joe dokes

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Yeah I have no idea how NFL front offices, or organizations, actually work so this is me just totally musing here. But if you are hired to be a character coach (of some sort) and BB allows you to be one of the few people to shoot totally straight with him, and BB trusts you to make character evaluations as he looks at players, doesn't that mean that you're an integral part of the team-building process? As in...if BB wants to acquire player X, and Easterby says don't do it because of reasons A, B, and C - those reasons maybe being that he's not good for a locker room, etc., (or the reverse...sign the guy because he's a great teammate, etc.) - and if BB listens to you on that, then for sure you're a core part of the organization's personnel decision-making process, even if you might not have known the difference between a slant and a square-in.
BB covers every base. He pays a shitload of attention to the 53rd guy on the roster. He might even agree that #53 is "integral" in some sense. But I doubt he considers that player to be more important than the starting QB. I'm sure he valued what Easterby brought to the table.
 

bankshot1

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My initial read on Easterby WBW was he was a cross between chaplain and baby sitter for players who needed some life advice-personal guidance and a watchful eye.
 

Van Everyman

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A good point here, I think:


View: https://twitter.com/friscojosh/status/1337078719328862208


"The knives are out. Easterby comes off as a classic ladder climbing film-flam artist. But it’s always worth considering who wants him taken out. The cocoon has strong self defense mechanisms.

"If that argument is that Easterby is bad, cool. If the argument is that any non-standard path to the top of an NFL org is untoward and suspect, skip me."

How much of the criticism is valid and how much is the NFL resisting change?


It's funny - I read another article today that makes the point that there's a lot more to being a GM than we think:


If the job isn't as much about traditional football stuff as we think, it's more viable to have a candidate from a non-football background. Easterby isn't the first, either (Sashi Brown, Marty Hurney, Howie Roseman, Jerry Jones, Mike Brown didn't come from traditional paths). But it doesn't sound like Easterby is doing an effective job running the non-football side of things.
My first reaction when I saw this article online was, “Wait, another feature on Easterby?”

I mean, put aside what we know about this guy already – that he forced O’Brien out, probably engineered the Hopkins trade, and has somehow become Cal McNair’s personal killer.

But this guy is hardly history’s greatest monster. He’s no more of a charlatan than countless other coaches and actors in this sport. And it’s not like McNair has given everything away. He may well be a moron. But well before this article, he explicitly said that Easterby wasn’t going to be the next GM. And as bad as this season is gone; they’re 4-8 and have a number of reasons to be optimistic about the future.

I also read stuff like this:

“He decreed [my emphasis] that team employees couldn’t wear sunglasses during games unless they were playing outdoors and there was discernible sun. He wanted to look them in the eyes.”
... and combined with the uniformly negative commentary in the article wonder if this whole piece is littered with exaggerations.

I don’t doubt Easterby is a detestable, ambitious prick and a terrible manager. But yes, this piece seems at least as much about being indignant that a non-football guy got as far as he did as it is what he did when he got there.

If anything, this article shows that some teams—and maybe the Texans in particular—are so desperate to get some of that Belichick magic to wear off on them that they are willing to suspend common sense.
 

joe dokes

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I wish I had the irrational confidence of that dude.
That story seemed more like he was projecting infallibility, not confidence. And that he took advantage of players' opening up to him for his own benefit at least as much as theirs. The televangelist comparison also seemed apt.
 
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nattysez

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PFT seems entirely on-board the Easterby-as-Littlefinger train.

Frankly, the disarray traces exclusively to Easterby. He was losing power and influence. Some believed he could end up being fired. The prevailing story in league circles is that, as the team was closing in on hiring one of the Korn Ferry finalists, Easterby went to owner Cal McNair’s house and talked him into hiring Caserio.

Another source said that agent Bob LaMonte, who represents both Easterby and Caserio, made a well-timed phone call to McNair, explaining that Caserio was poised to become the G.M. of the Panthers, and that Caserio would take Easterby with him. (It doesn’t matter if it was true that Caserio was going to the Panthers; what matters is whether McNair believed it.)
 

luckiestman

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PFT seems entirely on-board the Easterby-as-Littlefinger train.



Florio has been going after Easterby for a while
 

Cellar-Door

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The new stuff just re-inforces that whatever the agenda of the sources for SI (notable that there appear to have been a lot of them) the Texans are a mess. The Caserio hire is wildly bad process no matter how it turns out, and the Watson stuff is amateurish at best.
 

Cellar-Door

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Maybe we need a Texans thread, they are definitely gonna make news.

View: https://twitter.com/johnson80/status/1349084500840640518


Andre Johnson, best player in the history of the franchise, and a guy who was doing some advisory/coaching work until this summer, outright saying that everyone in the building but the owner thinks Easterby needs to go, and encouraging Watson to stand his ground.....

 

OurF'ingCity

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This also makes me think a bit less of Caserio - why does he have any interest getting involved with this dumpster fire? Just because he has the same agent/is friendly with Easterby? Purely as a matter of dollars and cents? The whole situation is weird.
 

Harry Hooper

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At what point does NFL HQ step in and tell Easterby [and McNair] to shut up?
 

Harry Hooper

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Sounds like Hopkins didn't buy what this guy was selling from day 1, and for that reason was targeted by Easterby for separation from the Texans. That move just by itself had a notable impact on the franchise.

Also, this potion of the SI piece was interesting [boldface added]:

As recently as November, a bio for Easterby that appeared on the website for the Greatest Champion Foundation (a nonprofit with a goal of serving athletes holistically through faith and founded by Easterby and his father) claimed that Easterby has over the years “been entrusted with over 50 head coaching searches at both power-five and mid-major universities for multiple sports.” Neither the Texans nor Easterby addressed specific questions from SI about which programs he has worked with on coaching searches and in what capacity.

That foundation’s site was down for most of the past month—a staffer explained that it was due to a redesign and migration to a new content management system—and when the new version launched last weekend, Easterby no longer had a bio. He is still noted as the foundation’s founder and chair of the board of directors, and the foundation’s latest 990 tax return says Easterby worked there an average of 40 hours per week in 2019, also his first year in Houston, collecting a salary of $16,981. A statement provided to SI by a Texans spokesperson on Easterby’s behalf reads, in part, “I have made no false claims about my experience, nor my work with my Foundation.”
 
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Rook05

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This whole thing is super weird to me. Easterby sounds like a cross between an evangelical preacher and Rich Paul, only for football management. He must have really pissed people off, and it sounds like a lot of them are players.
 

joe dokes

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This whole thing is super weird to me. Easterby sounds like a cross between an evangelical preacher and Rich Paul, only for football management. He must have really pissed people off, and it sounds like a lot of them are players.
We don't know if Robert Tiiton or Joel Osteen like football.