The Eagles just made a massive blunder. Cutting DeSean Jackson was a terrible move on multiple levels, and it screams of mismanagement and arrogance.
I love Chip Kelly as much as the next birds fan. He turned a 4-12 garbage dump of a team into a contender in no time flat. But what the hell just happened over the last month? How do you go from having potentially the best offense in football to having one where the two starting receivers are:
A) A questionably solid guy who missed the entirety of 2013 with a decimated knee
B) A questionably solid guy who may have maxed out his potential with 47 catches and 835 yards last year.
This offense went from a sure thing, the top rushing team in the NFL, top 5 in points and yardage, with every starter returning (plus Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles) to anything but.
Purely from a football standpoint, there is absolutely no way you can say the offense is better without DeSean Jackson on the field. His influence on the way defenses play the Eagles goes far beyond his pass catching abilities. Someone with DeSean’s pure, unadulterated speed and gamebreaking ability commands either a double team or, at the very least, a safety rolled over to his side of the field.
Has Riley Cooper ever seen a double team with Jackson on the field? How about Maclin?
Maclin is going to see the opposing team’s top corner now, each and every game, daring him and his surgically repaired knee to beat him in space. Riley Cooper isn’t going to have a secondary backed off in fear of getting beat deep- he’ll have no room to operate. The same goes for Celek and Ertz. Nick Foles won’t be able to keep the defense honest with the threat of the deep ball.
But this hurts the running game the most. Safeties can creep up into the box, no longer worried that number 10 will turn them into a SportsCenter Highlight. The bread and butter of the team, the offensive line, will have to deal with 8 in the box, and the NFL’s best running back suddenly won’t have the running lanes he had in year one.
Does this mean the Eagles offense will be subpar? No, I don’t think it will. But I believe they will drift back into the middle of the pack. This worries me on a deeper level than X’s and O’s, though.
Chip Kelly is smarter than you or I when it comes to football. I should trust him. I WANT to trust him. But this reeks of arrogance. This comes off to me as a coach who thinks that he can put any player into his system and they’ll come out a star on the other end. While he was at Oregon and New Hampshire, he didn’t have a choice- players were in and out every 4 years, and he had to recruit new ones. If a player was going to take too much effort to reign in, he can go and get another to replace him. He was a molder of players- he took in high schoolers and turned them into Chip Kelly prototypes. He could build them from the ground up.
But the NFL is different. He doesn’t have an unlimited talent pool; the best players get the most money, and you have to either draft them or pay them. He can’t just go recruit 10 five star recruits- he gets one first round pick, one second round pick, and so on. He could turn an average athlete into a good college player. But turning an average athlete into a good NFL player is near impossible- his competition gets the same platform he does now. He’s not luring in blue chippers with the promise of a shiny new facility and cool uniforms at the University of Oregon, and telling the kid he’ll never get that if he went to Cal or Utah or UCLA. You can’t do that in the NFL. There are only a small number of truly outstanding talents, and it’s exceedingly difficult to find and keep them.
And he just had one under contract, with plenty of cap space to keep him.
DeSean Jackson has never killed anyone. DeSean Jackson is not a Crip. Is DeSean immature? Of course. Comparing him to Aaron Hernandez, who is straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, is silly. We all agree DeSean should grow up. But posting pictures to twitter and Instagram is a ludicrous excuse to cut a star player. The fact that he has pictures with known gangbangers and alleged murderers is disconcerting. But he was never implicated in any way to be part of the crime. The police assured everyone that he was never considered a suspect. This isn’t Ray Lewis. This isn’t Mike Vick. Hell, this isn’t even Ray Rice.
Chip Kelly seems to be so certain that he is an offensive genius that he can take out a key cog and replace it with some spare parts he found lying around. Is DeSean a diva? Was he late for meetings? Is he self absorbed? Too bad. Make it work. He’s an elite talent. In the field of coaching major professional sports, massaging egos and making people who are different than you understand your goals is just as important as diagramming plays and planning workouts.
Richard Sherman spends all day defending his honor on twitter, telling everyone how great he is. David Ortiz cried and complained to the local media that he wants a new deal, even though he was still under contract for he upcoming year. LeBron James commands a media empire that rivals Peyton Manning, and had a Primetime TV show produced so he could tell everyone where he was going to play. Patrick Kane got drunk and beat up a cab driver. Franck Ribery was involved in an underage prostitution scandal.
Oh, but Sherman and the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, Ortiz and the Red Sox won the World Series, Lebron and the Heat won the Finals, Kane and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and Ribery and Bayern Munich won the Champions League.
These transgressions all have varying degrees of seriousness. But these are all distractions. They all show me-first behavior (Sherman and LeBron did nothing wrong but hog the limelight), or just complete disregard for the morally correct thing to do (Kane and Ribery defied the law).
But what DeSean did (or does) is about at the level of Sherman and Ortiz. There was no harm done. Nobody got hurt by a result of his actions. All he did was ask for a new contract (like Papi) and act like a fourteen-year-old girl on social media (like Sherman). Chip has to just bite the bullet and deal with it. DeSean was too special a player to cut, especially under contract in the prime of his career.
I thought better of Chip. But who knows, maybe he is an unparalleled genius, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Maybe this offense will hum right along in 2014 and they’ll impress yet again, and we’ll forget all about DeSean.
But maybe they won’t. And maybe Jackson will sign with a rival, or a championship contender. Imagine, if you will, as an Eagles fan, watching him win a Super Bowl with the 49ers or Seahawks, or perhaps scoring the game winning touchdown to knock the Eagles out of the playoffs wearing a Redskins or Giants uniform.
The fact that they couldn’t move his contract before this tidal wave of bad news struck is a damning inditement on the Eagles front office. Not only did they receive no compensation for losing their number one receiver, not even a mid round pick, but now Jackson can sign anywhere for whatever number he chooses. What that means is, instead of there being a small number of potential suitors because of the $10M cap hit (such as the Jets and Raiders), now the Super Bowl contender can swoop in and pick him up for bargain rate. Seeing him chest bump with Andy Reid again would make me sick to my stomach.
You might say the “culture” and the “locker room” are better than ever now at the NovaCare Complex. DeSean wasn’t a hard worker, and he clashed with Chip, so you can argue that the locker room will be all peace and harmony and breakfast shakes. But I would counter that I know what makes positive vibes in a locker room, and it isn’t getting the guys who buy into Chip Kelly’s system the most.
So you’d better keep winning next year, Chip.