The seven-time Pro Bowl wideout went on to blast the Texans as an organization that “is known for wasting players careers.” Johnson also wrote of the team’s executive vice president of football operations, Jack Easterby, saying that since he joined the Texans in April 2019, “nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on.”
Johnson, known for a quiet demeanor during his playing days, ended his tweet by exclaiming, “Pathetic!!!”
DeAndre Hopkins, a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals who was traded away from the Texans in March for what many viewed as an insufficient return, then responded to Johnson’s post.
“When Dre speak,” Hopkins tweeted, “listen.”
By some accounts, the trade of Hopkins began a curdling of Watson’s relationship with the Texans, who drafted the quarterback 12th overall in 2017 and have seen him turn into one of the best young players in the NFL.
After Houston finished 4-12 this season, during which it fired head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien, matters reportedly came to more of a boil when the team hired former New England Patriots executive Nick Caserio last week to be its new GM.
That reunited Caserio with Easterby, who was with the Patriots from 2013 to 2019, but it may have alienated Watson, who reportedly expected to have greater input during the hiring process. Hours after the Caserio news emerged, Watson tweeted — then subsequently deleted — this cryptic comment: “some things never change….”
NFL Network reported the next day that, according to people close to the situation, Watson was “extremely unhappy” with the Texans and with owner Cal McNair in particular. The network reported that, as with the Hopkins trade, Watson learned of the Caserio hiring via Twitter.
At Caserio’s introductory news conference Friday, McNair said, “I’ve come to understand that it’s been reported that Deshaun feels left out of the process, but he and I had several visits and I understood his point of view before meeting with candidates.” McNair added that he looked forward to Watson “getting back” to him when the quarterback returned from a vacation.
On Sunday, ESPN reported that Watson and some others in the organization “were upset with how Houston’s search took a sudden and unexpected turn,” after a firm hired by the team to find general manager candidates winnowed the field down to a pair of finalists, Pittsburgh Steelers executive Omar Khan and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, both of whom are minorities. A source close to Watson told ESPN that if the quarterback’s anger was “a two” over the Hopkins trade, “This time, it’s a 10.”
Assisting the firm in the search, according to an announcement made by McNair in December, was a group of advisers that included Johnson. The group, as listed by the owner, reportedly did not include Easterby, who was serving at the time as the interim general manager.
Texans fans had already expressed enough consternation about Easterby, who began his Patriots tenure as the team chaplain and had no experience in player evaluation, that team president Jamey Rootes assured them in November that Easterby would not be the permanent general manager. Then, approximately a week after McNair’s announcement the following month, Sports Illustrated published a lengthy feature that portrayed Easterby as a skillful player of office politics likened by some Texans to the ever-scheming “Game of Thrones” character Littlefinger.
Easterby was alleged in the Sports Illustrated story to have undermined other team executives, fostered “a culture of distrust among staff and players,” and encouraged the trade of Hopkins. In a statement in response, Easterby told the website, “If there is additional work to be done to gain the trust of others, I am committed to make that happen. I look forward to the leadership our new GM and Head Coach will bring to the Texans as we build this team for the future.”
The task of gaining trust has not ended for the former character coach in New England, to judge from a petition started by Texans fans titled, “Fire Jack Easterby and Save Deshaun Watson,” which had over 2,250 virtual signatures as of Tuesday evening.
Johnson’s tweet could be a much more damning assessment of Easterby, however, given his standing in the organization. Taking to social media in such a manner was out of character for the former wide receiver, whose Twitter feed since April 2019 has consisted of nothing but a handful of promotions for Crown Royal and a few appearances on “Good Morning Football.”
To another retired Texans star, former running back Arian Foster, only an extraordinary level of shady maneuvering could arouse such unusual indignation from Johnson.
“For him to get this outta pocket means there’s gotta be [expletive] lol,” Foster tweeted Tuesday. “dre is the calmest cat on the planet.”