Stephanie Stradley discusses Texans’ Jack Easterby podcast interview


Jack Easterby recently spoke publicly for the first time since Deshaun Watson signed a new contract in September 2020. The first time since the word ‘polarizing’ often appeared next to the name of the executive vice-president of football operations of the Texans, especially after surprisingly being named interim GM in 2020 and various unsourced leaks about his performance.

The first outing? The Jacob and Jacob Podcast created by Jacob Erlbaum and Jacob Hare, 18-year-old high school students in Philadelphia.

At local and national level, various media reported on Easterby video. Reactions have been everywhere, including wondering how did this podcast come about? I spoke to the Jacobs to find out, and they were excited to tell me about their podcast and wanted me to share their experience with Easterby.

To really understand what I’m writing, and if you care a bit, you should actually watch the podcast. Not radio clips. No written reports interpreting what it means. Or aggregators writing on these written reports. Look at this.

There are several people who told me they couldn’t bring themselves to watch it for their own specific reasons, most of them too needlessly to repeat. I understand and will try to write around it.

The context of the podcast

The Jacobs created their podcast during the pandemic for the reasons people create podcasts: their love of all kinds of sports. They are both navigating their final decisions for college and want a career in sports journalism or a sports-related field. They are curious to know more about the different roles within the teams.

Creating something from scratch means learning new things.

They learned how to write scripts, edit videos, and determine the direction of their podcast. At first, they just talked to each other. Eventually, they started reaching out to various sports personalities that they wanted to talk to and learn from.

They understood that the best way to find out more about a subject is to ask people who know more than they do. We had a nice chat like people who love sports do and discussed a few things about what we learned and who would be good guests.

How did two high school students get the interview?

The short answer? Like many, they wanted to know how an NFL team chaplain could quickly become interim general manager of one of the 32 professional football teams, then head of football operations and culture manager for the entire the organization.

And they just asked. And asked again.

The world, for better or for worse, is much smaller than it was when I was their age. (As my children say, back in the days of the cavemen). Social media makes it easier for people to reach out to sports personalities and contact them back.

Some sports personalities they have joined are retired or are journalists and do not have the responsibilities of being part of a team. Pete Rose is a remarkable interview they stole.

Usually, they were able to get their request answered through direct messages on social media. For Easterby, they were able to find his cell phone and text him last summer.

At first, Easterby responded in the traditional and expected way teams ask staff and players to do, asking them to contact the Texans’ communications staff. They did, but the podcast didn’t happen. Many professional members of the media have requested formal interviews with Easterby. They did not take place.

By the way, there are good reasons to channel requests through communications staff. Their job is to help the team find the most effective ways to communicate with the outside world to serve the head coach and the team’s goals.

The Jacobs didn’t give up and eventually Easterby agreed to do the podcast without the Texans’ public relations staff involved. Their understanding was that he would agree to do so, as long as they didn’t talk about player-specific things. Before the interview and with these tips, Jacob and Jacob researched the topics they wanted to know about Easterby.

They didn’t press him on anything specifically controversial because they thought it would be rude, and their goal was to get his take on things to learn. They were grateful for any moment of his time during the NFL Combine.

What is their impression of Jack Easterby?

Jacob and Jacob came out of the podcast loving Easterby. They thought he was a nice, great guy with a lot of successful past experiences. They thought his answers were well thought out and he was really engaged with them. They think Texans fans should be excited about their future, and in particular, like others, thought the best part of the Texans’ last season was general manager Nick Caserio’s draft selections.

They even said they would be happy if the Eagles had him on board their favorite team as vice president of football operations and chief culture officer for the entire organization. They were very grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to him.

They also understood some of the reasons why Texas fans might not see things the same way. We have discussed how communication involves context, welcomed words are heard differently than unwelcomed words. And that there are many different methods of dealing with criticism as a team that can make things healthier.

So why wasn’t Easterby’s podcast universally well received? What, if anything, is wrong with Easterby in 2022 choosing to help young people learn more about how to achieve their dreams?

Anything and everything depending on your point of view.

The short answer is that everyone has their own opinions based on the expectations and experiences of their Texans. As Caserio notes, some of the reviews have been unfair. And from my perspective, talking to a lot of people, some have been extremely unfair. Yet some have been extremely fair, but have been downplayed, excused, ignored and treated poorly.

I don’t like to talk about it because there’s a chasm between how some Texas leaders see themselves and how the Texas community sees them.

What do I mean by Texas community? Internal stakeholders (players, coaches, staff) and external stakeholders (former Texas employees, potential players, different types of fans, agents, media, advertisers, others).

People told me I talked too much about Easterby. Others want me to talk more about him because some are afraid to talk about the owner’s good friend who oversees just about everything for the football organization except the staff. My take is that there’s no way to talk about him and his role in a way that doesn’t deeply bother some people. And who needs that?

I wish I could reassure others about his role, but just about any view of him I can say, “Yeah, I know why you see him that way and I can’t tell you anything else. “

I only came out of my writing hibernation to give Jacob and Jacob their highs, some encouragement and love bond, and let them clear up some speculations. I filed a lot of public analysis of the team due to various negative and strong feelings and misunderstandings inside and outside the team.

When that happens, it’s hard to be heard the way I hear it. So, I’m more in listening and observing mode and I hope the team’s relationship with others will become healthier. Head coach Lovie Smith looks like she’s been working hard and smart so far. The recent history of the Texans is that good intentions are good but never enough and sometimes trying to help with enthusiasm hurts. I don’t want to add anything to that.


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