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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Crumpler

Jack Easterby, the Law of Entropy, and Houston’s lost NFL franchise

Science is defined, via Merriam-Webster dictionary, as “Knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and test through the scientific method.” Although the Houston Texans may continue defy “general truths” in every sense possible, science provides an excellent frame to think about the current state of the franchise.

For those who are not familiar with chemistry/physics, the Law of Entropy states that systems, when left alone, trend towards disorder and randomness. Energy is required to produce order and order does not occur without energy.

This applies very well to things we see in everyday life. Homes do not stay clean without occasionally picking things up. Work assignments will pile up if not completed. Relationships do not stay healthy without invested conversation, date nights, and effort.

NFL teams do not stay good without making efforts to improve.

The 2018 Houston Texans were one of the most talented teams in the league. The team featured 6 Pro Bowlers in Deshaun Watson, Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Benardrick McKinney and Jadeveon Clowney. This does include other incredibly talented contributors such as Will Fuller, D.J. Reader, Zach Cunningham, or Tyrann Mathieu.

That team went 11-5 and lost in the wild-card round. After making no moves in the offseason, the Texans hired Jack Easterby as executive vice president of team development in April, and then even greater changes began to manifest, such as the firing of general manager Brian Gaine and coach Bill O’Brien having greater input on talent acquisition. Since then, the Texans have shown a fundamental lack of understanding regarding football, entropy, and the universe at large.

McKinney, Cunningham, and Watson are the only players listed above that are under contract for Houston in 2021. That comes with a massive caveat that Watson has requested and made very public his desires to be traded to a different franchise. McKinney is widely considered to be a potential cut or trade candidate.

The Texans under O’Brien and Easterby seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding for the Law of Entropy. There was always an expectation that their expertise and methods would win out. This was very evident in the offseason.

The duo had little regard for talent beyond Watson. Mathieu, Reader, and Jackson were allowed to walk from the team. Clowney and Hopkins were traded for pennies on the dollar and deemed “poor culture fits” on their way out. Draft picks were thrown away for temporary rentals. Watt was recently allowed to walk for nothing in return.

All the while, the Texans and their front office on Kirby Drive sold to the fanbase that they were employing the same level team. Watson was talented enough to cover up roster flaws in 2019 during a 10-6 campaign. However, even his greatness couldn’t hide defensive weaknesses during their infamous divisional round collapse against the Kansas City Chiefs.

That did not matter. In fact, in the same month that the Texans blew a 24-0 divisional playoff lead at Kansas City to end up losing 51-31, chairman and CEO Cal McNair promoted O’Brien to general manager and Easterby to executive vice president of football operations.

“I was encouraged by the progress that our team made on the field this year which was due in part to our new structure, operating approach and the leaders within our football operations group,” McNair said in a statement on Jan. 28, 2020. “I am proud that we provided our fans with many thrilling victories at home, including a playoff win, and we delivered another double-digit win season. Our fans deserve that, but now it is time for the organization to get back to work toward our pursuit of a world championship for the city of Houston.”

The duo of O’Brien and Easterby believed themselves to be firmly insulated from reality. There wasn’t any talent deficit their combined coaching and culture couldn’t overcome.

In reality, the Law of Entropy continued in the 2020 offseason, as the roster lost more talent without any substantial plan to replace it. Once again, fans were told that the front office had everything under control. There was a plan that everyone just needed to trust. The roster holes caught up to them this time.

Houston went 4-12 in 2020. Fans watched an offense that was incapable of running the ball and a defense that had holes on all three levels. The Law of Entropy, like Father Time, proved once again why it is a “law.”

However, despite that performance, the Texans still seem to ignore reality on how they perceive both their own team and what is necessary to improve. O’Brien was outed after Week 4 of the 2020 season, however Easterby, despite multiple troubling Sports Illustrated reports, remains in the building.

As outlined earlier, systems do not become organized unless energy is put in. In fact, absent an energy input many things will trend towards becoming unorganized. In a similar fashion, the franchise cannot improve without the necessary, somewhat painful decisions needed. McNair and the Texans do not care.

There is no acknowledgement that Easterby’s presence makes it almost impossible to move forward as a respectable franchise. Nobody cares about the massive disconnect raging between the fanbase. There is no worry that the Houston franchise has become a laughingstock around the NFL. There is no concern that “the player,” Watson, has real leverage in his standoff with the organization.

Instead, McNair has doubled down on the importance of Easterby in the building and allowed him to influence the eventual hiring of new general manager Nick Caserio and new coach David Culley. Watson’s trade request has been totally ignored, with the team refusing to even answer calls. Today the Texans restructured running back David Johnson rather than admit the trade mutually failed both parties in 2020.

Things are only going to continue to get worst for Houston unless dramatic changes are made in the front office. The Law of Entropy clearly outlines that there is no obligation for things to suddenly turnaround and begin to improve.

There is little reason for current players to buy into the message the front office and coaching staff are selling. It’s hard to imagine any free agent wanting anything to do with the team’s dysfunction.

Finally, it’s impossible to believe Houston will make any real effort to make things different and appease their distraught franchise quarterback.

That’s what happens when your front office insulates itself from reality. It doesn’t matter if nothing makes sense, there’s an expectation it just has to work out. For now, Houston stands stuck in their ways and in a stout refusal of reality. Players, fans, and those who cover the league will have to hope that something rescues the NFL’s lost 32nd franchise.

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