Houston Texans Executive Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby reportedly believes New England Patriots chairman Robert Kraft and his family are behind negative stories published about him by Sports Illustrated.
According to Greg Bishop and Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated, sources said Easterby has told people, including the McNair family, which owns the Texans, that the Kraft family is behind the bad press and are either investors in SI or directly funded the story.
Easterby denied telling anyone that, while Bishop and Vrentas denied the Krafts having any involvement in their story, published in December, about Easterby's rise to power in Houston and the subsequent issues that arose.
Before joining the Texans as vice president of team development in 2019 and then getting promoted last year, Easterby spent six seasons with the Patriots as their character coach and then team development director.
Three sources also told Bishop and Vrentas that Easterby has told people within the Texans organization that he planned to sue SI for defamation and was given a list of the sources who contributed to the story as a result, but Bishop and Vrentas wrote that SI has not been informed of any potential lawsuits.
Bishop and Vrentas added the Texans have been divided since Easterby's arrival, which is something quarterback Deshaun Watson wanted to end.
Watson reportedly wanted input in the Texans' search for a new general manager and head coach, but the Texans hired former Patriots executive Nick Caserio as GM without consulting Watson.
The superstar quarterback was unhappy that the team didn't ask him for his opinion, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
There is some belief that Easterby played a big role in the hiring of Caserio since they spent time together in New England, but Texans CEO Cal McNair said Easterby "wasn't a significant part" of the hiring process.
Regardless of how the decision to hire Caserio was made, an all-time Texans great spoke out against the organization this week and stood in Watson's corner.
Former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson tweeted the following indictment of Easterby:
Andre Johnson @johnson80
If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground. The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!
Johnson later posted a photo of himself and Watson on Instagram while attending a Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers game and included the caption: "STAND YOUR GROUND!!!"
While there is no indication that the Texans have any plans to trade their Pro Bowl quarterback, the franchise appears to be in turmoil on the heels of a disappointing 4-12 season.
The Texans still have a new coach to hire following the firing of Bill O'Brien. It is unclear how involved Easterby will be in that process, but McNair told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that he wants Watson to be part of it.