THE PALLILOG

Stop us if you have heard this before: Texans need to find a way to protect Watson against Jags

Deshaun Watson takes his act to New York. Tim Warner/Getty Images

No must win game looms for the Texans Sunday against Jacksonville. Unless you are gaga over the Titans after their season opening humiliation of the Browns in Cleveland, the AFC South does not look to have a team capable of pulling away and ripping off 12 wins. Maybe not even 10. Last season the Texans extricated themselves from an 0-3 mess of a start to win the division, so 0-2 wouldn't mean curtains. But if the Jaguars turn out to be decent with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew and a rejuvenated defense, the Texans dropping a home division game to fall to 0-2 would be problematic. At eight and a half or nine points the Texans are the third biggest favorite in the NFL this week. Baltimore at home is -13 vs. Arizona, New England is a whopping 19 point road favorite at Miami.

Except for one awful decision and throw Deshaun Watson looked like a top 10 quarterback at New Orleans. Alas his career will be inevitably altered for the worse if the offensive line play doesn't improve and Watson doesn't speed up that imaginary clock in his head by half a tick.

Developmental prospect or not, if second round draft pick Max Scharping isn't very soon good enough to move right tackle Seantrel Henderson out of the starting lineup, the pick looks bad.

It really would be nice if Head Coach Bill O'Brien stops uttering pedantic and/or condescending nonsense. The Texans' secondary alignment on the Saints' last completion before the game winning field goal was simply indefensible. Billy Bluster's pearl of non-wisdom: "We made a call there that we thought was the best call for us." As opposed to coaches who make calls they think are the worst for them? The call was absurd! Safeties stationed as close to Mississippi as to the line of scrimmage? Two cornerbacks lined up as if covering skunks who'd just taken swims in a toxic waste pool? It's as if the Texans thought they were up by four and not one. You don't suppose…? Nah.

And Coach, about using a timeout and then immediately losing another one because of a challenge after the same play…

Astros drop three straight

In winning three in a row at Minute Maid Park after getting demolished 15-0 in the series opener, the Oakland A's administered the latest reminder that as great as the Astros are they are a lock for nothing when their postseason starts in three weeks. The A's have a better record than the Astros over the last three months. So do the Indians. Any team can beat any other team in a three out of five baseball series. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply wrong.

Thursday's 3-2 loss to the A's dropped the Astros to 0-47 on the season when trailing going to the ninth inning. As I've covered before, all teams lose almost all of their games when down after eight. Few actually lose every one of them.

It has worked out quite well that the Astros were forced to move to the American League in order for the owners to approve the sale of the franchise from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane's group. Latest example: Yordan Alvarez is pretty much a lock to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Everything else being equal, as amazing as he's been Alvarez would have little shot at the NL rookie honor. Not with the Mets' Peter Alonso entering the weekend with 47 homers and 109 runs batted in. In the end you get credit for what you did accomplish, not for what you might have accomplished if called up sooner.

Not even counting his winning World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer's "career year" to date was 2017. He played 140 games that season with 34 homers and 85 RBI. Through 109 games played this season: 34 homers and 85 RBI. If he hadn't missed a month with a hamstring injury Springer might be right there with Alex Bregman as top alternatives to Mike Trout for AL MVP. Springer's contract is up at the end of the season, but he can't become a free agent until after next season when he'll already be 31 years old. Would the Astros say "too much" or Springer say "not enough" to a suggestion of four years 80 mil?

Down week for colleges

Overall it's a dud of a college football schedule this weekend. Not one Top 25 matchup on the card. UH plus nine and a half vs. Washington State feels like the right side Friday night at NRG Stadium. Texas can seemingly name its score -32 vs. Rice at NRG Saturday.

Buzzer Beaters

1. The "Texas Kickoff" really shouldn't take place the third full weekend of the season. 2. It would be a downer if Carlos Correa only gets to play in a championship series this year while rehabbing with Round Rock during the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. 3. Look away triskaidekophobes! Greatest athletes to wear #13 (A-Rod is disqualified and an honorable mention for Billy Wagner): Bronze-Steve Nash Silver-Dan Marino Gold-Wilt Chamberlain

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The power struggle continues. Photo by Getty Images.

Boy, with the recent blizzard of negative publicity – searing magazine cover stories with headlines blasting "Houston Has a Problem" and "The Chaplain Who Won a Power Struggle and Plunged a Franchise into Chaos" – I'll bet the Houston Texans wished they had a seasoned, respected and award-winning media director to handle damage control.

Oh yeah, that's exactly what they had in Amy Palcic, but she was fired last year. Reason: she "wasn't the right culture fit."

What exactly is the Houston Texans culture these days? Apparently the culture is players disliking and distrusting the team executive specifically charged with managing the team's culture. It's that same executive whose resume has more fudging than the Keebler Cookie Company. It's that executive who's accused of authorizing illegal practices and hiring private eyes to follow players in their private activities. It's that executive who's accused of intimidating employees who trash him to the media and threatening to sue media outlets. It's that executive who imposes his religious fervor on lower-ranked employees. It's that executive who has created a culture where gifted quarterback Deshaun Watson is said to want a trade out of Houston.

That executive is Jack Easterby - the backstabbing, butt-smooching BS'er who seems to have a Svengali hold on Texans chairman Cal McNair.

If it comes down to one stays and one has to go between Watson and Easterby … hmmm, let's see. Deshaun Watson threw for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. Jack Easterby, zero and zero.

Last week, Texans legend Andre Johnson, who usually speaks up less than the magician Teller, tweeted: "Since Jack Easterby walk into the building nothing good has happened. For some reason someone can't seem to see what's going on. Pathetic!!!"

That "someone" would be Texans chairman Cal McNair, who continues to support Easterby despite all the accusations and revelations hurled Easterby's way.

By the way, Easterby has not sued any media outlet that is publishing stories about his bullying and sneakiness. And he won't sue because that last thing he wants is to be put in a witness chair and swear to tell the truth.

In the past 12 months, with Easterby sticking his nose in McNair's ear, the Texans have managed to alienate and infuriate superstar Watson: trade All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins and create a losing, uninspired clubhouse that has favorite son J.J. Watt wanting a trade to leave his beloved Houston.

It's not like Easterby is some mad genius who somehow produces spectacular results despite his unorthodox tactics. The Texans finished 2020 with a disastrous 4-12 record, with little to show for it, not even a top draft pick to honor their futility. The Texans are clearly in need of divine intervention, and not from huckster Easterby, whose degree is in sports management from Newberry College. Easterby is only dimples and wavy hair short of being a TV preacher.

You can't deny that Easterby is inspiration. He recently inspired a public protest on the sidewalk outside NRG Stadium and signs swaying over Southwest Freeway with the same message: #FireJackEasterby. Watson asked his supporters not to attend the rally due to COVID precaution.

Then there's the case of Deshaun Watson v. Cal McNair.

Watson was born into an economically disadvantaged family and has worked for, and deserves, every penny he is paid. He is a champion.

Cal McNair found the Houston Texans under his Christmas tree in 2018 after his father Texans original owner Bob McNair died.

Watson is an extremely bright and sensitive man who is deeply involved in social issues off the field. Last year, during the summer of racial upheaval in America, he led the charge to have the name of a former slave owner removed from a building on his alma mater Clemson's campus.

McNair hardly ever speaks in public and his stumbling, confused performance at a press conference to announce the hire of general manager Nick Caserio showed why. It's rare when a team owner has to apologize after making what should have been a happy statement promising fans a better future. However, if a stage production of the Beverly Hillbillies ever goes to Broadway, we've got our Jethro.

Many times when a player gets into a public spat with a team owner, it's a dumb jock player vs. the super-smart businessman who owns a billion-dollar company. It's usually over money. And the public typically thinks, "just get rid of the ungrateful, overpaid and greedy player."

Not this time. Watson already got his – four years at $156 million. This is a war of morality. Watson is the hero here, McNair the fool being played by Easterby, who like Cassius is Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, "has a lean and hungry look."

If it came to a public vote between Watson and McNair (Easterby), Watson's landslide win would rival Kim Jong-Un in North Korea … or LeAnn Rimes on The Masked Singer.

It's unfair to call McNair and Easterby polarizing figures because polarizing implies that there are two sides to the issue.

There is only one side. Houston loves Deshaun Watson and wants McNair to sell the team, right after he fires Easterby.

Seemingly the only defender rushing to Easterby's side is a Twitter account allegedly owned by Easterby under a fake name. If it is a burner account, Easterby has a whole lot of faith in himself.

Although football insiders say that Watson is all but out the door at NRG Stadium, there is still a chance that McNair could save the day, and do what is needed to keep Watson in Texans' gear. And that would be to fire Easterby. Now.

Sadly, given McNair's repeated pledges of loyalty to Easterby and insistence that criticism of Easterby is unwarranted, Watson's leaving Houston gets more likely each day. Andre Johnson had it right … "pathetic!!!"

Three exclamation points.

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