By: Zach Zook
About a week-and-a-half ago, the Houston Texans sent shockwaves down the NFL’s spine when they announced the firing of their GM Brian Gaine. Since then, it’s been a full-blown soap opera in the media. “After a thorough evaluation of our football operations, we have decided to relieve Brian Gaine of his duties as general manager," Houston Chief Executive Officer Cal McNair said, further adding to the general confusion surrounding the situation. Gaine is the second GM to be fired after the draft this spring, something that while not unprecedented, is extremely unusual in the NFL. He joins Jets GM Mike Maccagnan on the chopping block just a year-and-a-half into his five-year contract, and that’s just the beginning of the story.
Immediately following Gaine’s firing, it was reported that the Texans were already eying New England Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. Days after that, the Patriots filed tampering charges against Houston with the league office, charges that they later withdrew after Houston agreed to cease and desist their pursuit of the Patriot’s up-and-coming executive.
Enter Houston’s EVP of Player Development Jack Easterby. Easterby began his NFL life as a team chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs and has risen meteorically to become now a high-ranking member of the Texans front office. Coincidentally, the night before Brian Gaine was fired, Easterby attended a Super Bowl ring ceremony at the residence of Patriots owner Robert Kraft – a party that Caserio also attended. Not 24 hours after, Gaine was out as the Texans GM and reports of Houston’s interest in Caserio started swirling. It’s also worth mentioning that Caserio and Easterby share an agent in the form of Bob Lamonte.
Here’s what happened (Adrian Monk-style): The front office of the Texans clearly hasn’t been very impressed with Brian Gaine 17 months into his tenure. Does that have to do with his draft and free agency decisions? Disagreements with head coach Bill O’Brien who practically hand-picked him? That much is still unclear. But what is clear is that the Texans came together and decided to go cloak-and-dagger after Nick Caserio in New England – and they got caught. You can’t con a con-man and trying to sneak a shady employee snatch-and-grab by Bill Belichick probably wasn’t the most well thought out plan. That said however, the Texans still may come out of this situation with the result they initially desired. While they are now legally unable to pursue Caserio for the time being, the Texans need only to wait out his contract – which ends after the 2020 NFL Draft, and that appears to be the course of action they’re taking. While Houston interviewed Ray Farmer and Martin Mayhew for the position, it now appears as if the front office was merely trying to satisfy the Rooney Rule and its only real target was Caserio. That’s a theory Houston has lent credence to as well when they announced the team would go without a GM for the 2019 season, presumably leaving O’Brien to take up sole responsibility for the football operations.
So far, Caserio is staying put and hasn’t appeared to have had much of a say in the matter – but regardless of where he ends up, we have historical precedence from off-field incidents with the Colts and Jets that once you cross Belichick, that grudge is there for life so circle your calendars. The Patriots are slated to play the Texans December 1 in Houston on Sunday Night Football, and I’m sure this dust-up will be a topic of conversation for Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.