In mid-December, Sports Illustrated published a bombshell story on Jack Easterby that painted the former New England Patriots character coach as a power-hungry schemer seeking to increase his standing in the Houston Texans organization.
Easterby, the Texans’ embattled vice president of football operations, reportedly has blamed his former employer for this negative public image.
In a follow-up story published Saturday detailing the ongoing turmoil in Houston, multiple sources told SI’s Greg Bishop and Jenny Vrentas that Easterby has told people inside the Texans organization that Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Kraft family are “behind the negative press about him.”
These claims reportedly are “untrue.”
When SI published its original story on Easterby’s unusual rise to power and ensuing chaos for the Texans on Dec. 10, many outside the building found the details to be troubling, but few inside were surprised. If the unflattering portrayal did cause Easterby to reflect on his actions, there was no indication to colleagues. Instead, he sought to smoke out or intimidate people he believed had spoken to SI.
According to three sources, Easterby told multiple people inside the building that he had sued, or planned to sue, SI for defamation, and had therefore been provided with a list identifying all sources for that story. That is untrue: SI has not been notified of any lawsuit nor disclosed the identity of any of its sources.
Multiple people who have worked with Easterby also say that he has told people in both Houston and New England, including the McNairs, that the Kraft family, which owns the Patriots, is behind the negative press about him. Some of these people also say he has spread a story that the Krafts are investors in SI or had directly funded SI’s reporting. That is also untrue: SI has no financial relationship with the Krafts or any of their business ventures, including the Patriots. The Krafts declined SI’s interview requests for that story. Easterby denies telling colleagues that the Kraft family has an ownership stake in SI, and McNair says he does not believe SI is funded by the Kraft family.
Much of this latest SI exposé centered around Houston’s seemingly Easterby-led decision to hire Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio as its next general manager.
Caserio reportedly was not among the five GM candidates recommended by search firm Korn Ferry, and his arrival has deepened the rift between the Texans and star quarterback Deshaun Watson. Texans legend Andre Johnson also has ripped Easterby on social media.
“When Watson saw (Johnson’s) tweet, the first for a person of Johnson’s significance to name Easterby directly, he laughed,” Bishop and Vrentas wrote. “Asked why he might find a tweet that heavy in sentiment funny, one of the people close to Watson says, ‘He just wants out.’ “