Texans GM Nick Caserio downplays criticism against executive Jack Easterby

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Payne & Pendergast
P&P - EXCLUSIVE with Texans GM Nick Caserio
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(SportsRadio 610) - Texans general manager Nick Caserio spent about 20 minutes with Payne & Pendergast on Tuesday morning discussing everything from team's head coaching search, to the status of stars like Deshaun Watson, Laremy Tunsil and how they might approach the NFL Draft.

Caserio also addressed executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby's role in the evaluation process.

The Texans' general manager is well aware of the widespread criticism levied against his long time friend and colleague Easterby.

Before Caserio's arrival, Easterby worked closely with former head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien, facilitating a lot of the moves believed to have set the franchise back.

The "massive undertaking" Caserio has previously referred to, is linked to Easterby's time as an executive for the Texans.

Some of those moves:

- Trading DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson, the 40th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (Ross Blacklock) and a fourth-round pick.

- Trading two first-round picks and a second-round pick for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, then signing Tunsil to a three-year, $66 million extension.

- Signing linebacker Zach Cunningham, who has still yet to make a Pro Bowl or be named All-Pro, to a four-year, $58 million deal only for him to be released the following year

- Negotiating a no-trade clause in Deshaun Watson's four-year, $156 million contract just months before he demands a trade, somewhat complicating potential landing spots.

- Whitney Mercilus' four-year, $58 million deal as he showed signs of a declining player.

The moves gutted the Texans' draft capital and salary cap space, while failing to field a contender past 2019, the year Easterby arrived, Brian Gaine was fired as general manager while other high-ranking executives steadily left the organization as well.

Simply put: Many fans view O'Brien and Easterby as the reasons why the Texans are in this pitiful state.

Yet Caserio downplayed the criticism against Easterby and tried to clarify his current role with the team.

"Jack's been a hot topic for a lot of people. I would say, candidly, probably some of the criticism has been unfair, I think," Caserio said. "Jack has an important role from an operational and logistics standpoint. That's what he was brought here to do. That's his role in the football operation. ... Anything as it pertains to making football decisions, whether it's players, contract signings, scouting, draft analysis, those all fall under my jurisdiction.

"When you look at a football operation in its entirety, it takes a lot of people to actually make sure that it functions and operates at a good level. So I would say I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the job that Jack does and candidly, not a lot of people probably really understand the nuts and bolts of it. But when you actually get a chance to spend time with Jack, I think realize it's probably not as bad as everybody makes it out to be.

"I'd say from his perspective, it's always been an operational, kind of logistics standpoint. There's certain areas that maybe fall under his jurisdiction that we'll communicate about and I can handle the football areas. If there's something we need to talk about collectively as a whole, whether it's myself, Jack, the head coach, whomever it is, then those lines of communication are open. So I don't see that really changing going forward. It's been pretty consistent, other than maybe a couple of months in 2020. Jack's been a punching bag since he got here. Some of it, I think quite frankly, is a little bit unjust. But everybody has an opinion and they're certainly entitled to their opinion. We just kind of keep moving forward."

While Easterby has been painted as power seeking and unqualified for his ascension in the NFL ranks, there are also players and coaches like Bill Belichick who swear by him, though acknowledging he's "not a personnel guy."

Listen to the audio player above for the entire interview with Payne & Pendergast.