For many teams, the front-office leader is the de facto voice for a team’s whole operation. They operate in the space between what’s happening on the field and behind the scenes. In the Houston Texans’ case, however, the front office leader faces questions. Jack Easterby, a former chaplain who rose behind the scenes in several NFL circles, has become an enigma in NFL circles; few can figure him out.
Jack Easterby’s strange NFL journey
Most front-office workers have seen a football-related rise to their jobs. Whether a coach finds a knack for front-office work or a former player wants to build off of their playing days, everyone has a unique path. Easterby’s, however, is one of the strangest. His first job in the NFL was as a chaplain.
According to ESPN, his first NFL job came in 2011. The Kansas City Chiefs hired him as a chaplain to encourage players to attend team Bible studies. When Easterby arrived, Succop said his leadership was infectious. He claimed the team rallied around Easterby after only one meeting. He became a locker-room leader and helped the team after losing teammate Jovan Belcher. (The linebacker shot his girlfriend and killed himself in the practice facility parking lot.)
His reaction helped put him on the map. It was so effective that famous curmudgeon Bill Belichick hired him not as a chaplain but as a character coach in the aftermath of Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges and eventual suicide.
“Jack did a great job for us,” Belichick said per ESPN. “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.”
Easterby, the football whisperer
Easterby developed a reputation as a man who had an eye for intangibles that no analytics could mess with. He hopped around the college and professional ranks for several years while employed by New England. Then, in 2019, the Houston Texans hired him as the Vice President of the Houston Texans. Within a year, however, he climbed the ladder. When Brian Gaine was fired, Easterby worked with head coach Bill O’Brien to help sort out the team.
However, when O’Brien, who was acting as de facto general manager, was let go, Easterby was suddenly the front office head, details ESPN. It was a controversial decision, as his lack of experience meant that he skipped in line. The Texans responded by claiming that it’s just a short-term fix.
“Let me reiterate what I have said before as there seems to be some confusion — Jack will not be our general manager,” Texans CEO Cal McNair said of his controversial leader per ESPN. “But he will have a significant role in helping shape our future here within the Texans. He is going to be an incredibly valuable part of our franchise moving forward as he works with our next general manager and next head coach.”
It’s clear that the Texans have faith in him, but there are a healthy amount of concerns, as well.
Is the Houston Texans’ situation too good to be true?
While the Texans portray their front office leader as a man of the people beloved by all, Sports Illustrated did some digging to find that many had issues with his style. During a year in which most teams were trying to practice caution thanks to the oncoming pandemic, Easterby advocated for workouts at a coach’s house to avoid any bad press.
Furthermore, he reportedly was a significant cog in the infamous trade that sent DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for pennies on the dollar. Several unnamed players and employees painted him as a toxic decision-maker who refuses insight from those with more experience and fosters a culture of distrust throughout the franchise.
Whether he ends up holding power, as McNair implied, or becomes a flash in the pan, no one has a stranger NFL story than Easterby. It just goes to show that there is no right way to secure a job, but if you get there in different ways, it could be a decision that many parties regret in the future.