The Houston Texans are back in the news Wednesday morning after deciding to terminate their VP of Communications, Amy Palcic.
Initial reporting on her dismissal is that she is no longer a “cultural fit” which – given she was the first and only woman to run an NFL team’s media relations department – created a social media run on torches and pitchforks.
For more than a century, the NFL has been a male-dominated industry. Women are trying hard to make inroads. Any NFL team dismissing an accomplished female employee for something “cultural” is akin to pulling the pin on a grenade and then staring at it wondering what will happen next.
But for the rudderless Houston Texans – a franchise reportedly under the guidance/spell of former Patriots chaplain Jack Easterby – Palcic’s dismissal is akin to pulling the pin on a grenade and staring at it knowing full well what will happen next.
You may be saying to yourself, “That sucks for Palcic and, boy, the Texans are a mess but why does that matter to a New England Patriots fan?”
Two reasons. The first is Easterby. His meteoric rise and Machiavellian knack for collecting power began here in New England.
In six seasons, he went from team chaplain providing spiritual counsel in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez arrest to somehow building a football personnel and development résumé that made him attractive to the Texans.
Easterby left the Patriots in February of 2019, cluck-clucking about owner Robert Kraft’s incident for solicitation that month. That Easterby hired Bob Lamonte as his agent indicated how far he’d come. Lamonte is one of the NFL’s most prominent reps for coaches and executives. If he was going to work with Easterby, then Lamonte clearly realized that Easterby was a football guy now.
So how involved was Easterby in player acquisition, development, scouting and advising from 2013 to 2018 seasons? How closely did he work with Bill Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio who – like Easterby – is repped by Lamonte? How big a role did the former team chaplain have in personnel during the Patriots' draft drought that stretches back to 2013 and continues even after he’s left?
Even though the Texans pursued Caserio in the summer of 2019 – a pursuit which was derailed when the Patriots filed tampering charges and the Texans agreed to drop their effort – Easterby already had his hands all over player personnel alongside head coach Bill O’Brien.
Two months after getting to Houston – and days before the Caserio pursuit began – the Texans fired GM Brian Gaine after Gaine was on the job just 17 months.
When the Caserio hire fell through, O’Brien assumed the GM job. After a series of high-profile personnel gambles over the next 15 months, the Texans started the season 0-4 and O’Brien got fired.
And now here’s Easterby, the sole survivor. As I was doing this story, I looked back at a feature written on Easterby by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham.
Two anecdotes from the story stick out.
Once in a note to a coach, Easterby quoted Teddy Roosevelt's speech about being the "man in the arena" who was daring to be great, and he signed it:
Aiming to be the man in the arena, Jack
The second, which was meant to illustrate Easterby’s “Type A” personality noted that Easterby was asked to be the “officiant” at the wedding of former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn.
“(Easterby) wrestled the schedule away from the wedding planner and streamlined the process to make it easier for the bride and groom,” Wickersham wrote.
Easterby has a long, long line of people I deeply respect who have vouched for his character over the years. Regardless of how good a person he is, he’s also got a naked desire for collecting power. And now, having laid the foundation in New England to grab all the power in Houston, what’s he plan to do with it?
Which brings us to how the second reason discussing Easterby is relevant.
The Texans have no GM and an interim head coach. Will Easterby again look to New England to fill openings?
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would certainly seem a reasonable possibility for the Texans. And there are others in the Patriots personnel department that Easterby would be familiar with who worked under and alongside Caserio.
The Texans seem like an attractive spot with a franchise quarterback like Deshaun Watson in place. But Palcic’s puzzling dismissal seems like a reminder that – with Easterby captaining the ship – anyone can be thrown overboard and the destination is unclear.