And let’s just focus on numbers.
The one thing nobody can dispute.
DeSean Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last year, a career season. But a glance behind the numbers provides some potential football reasons the Eagles were willing to part with Jackson and get nothing in return.
Here are five statistical factors that may have contributed to the Eagles’ decision to release Jackson:
1. Second-half tailoff
Jackson historically tails off as the year goes on. He has 20 career 100-yard games, and 10 of them -- half -- have been in September.
Jackson in his career has averaged 85 yards per game in September but just 66 the rest of the year. That’s a significant dropoff, especially for an outdoor team in the Northeast that plays in a division with no domes.
Does Jackson just not fare as well in cold weather?
In nine dome games, he has averaged 102 yards per game, and outside he’s at 66 yards per game.
If Jackson ever played on an indoor team, his numbers might be off the charts.
2. The Foles Factor
Jackson’s catches, targets and yards dropped significantly when Nick Foles replaced Michael Vick, and since Foles is going to be the Eagles’ quarterback moving forward, this is important.
Jackson averaged 98 yards last year in games that Vick started and stayed healthy compared to 73 yards when Foles played the whole game. His targets dropped from 9.3 to 6.8 (including the playoff game and excluding the Giants game, when they both played).
The second half of the year, once Foles became established as the starter, Jackson became less and less of a factor. He reached 60 yards in just one of the Eagles’ last six games.
3. Lack of consistency
Jackson had some huge games last year. He was over 190 yards against the Vikings and Chargers (both losses), and he had 150 yards vs. the Raiders and 132 in the first Giants game. But those four games accounted for more than half his season production. In his 12 other games, he averaged about 55 yards.
Every receiver has highs and lows, but Jackson actually had only seven games with at least 65 yards, and 21 receivers league-wide had more.
The most consistent receivers in the league don’t have as many down games as Jackson. Antonio Brown, for example, had at least 70 yards in 12 of 16 games.
The Eagles could desire a receiver who may not have the drastic highs that Jackson has but also doesn’t have as many lows.
4. Riley can go deep
Believe it or not, Riley Cooper actually caught more deep balls from Foles last year than Jackson.
We think of Jackson as one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league and Cooper as a modest mid-round pick. But while Jackson had eight receptions of 40 yards or more last year, half of them were from Vick.
With Foles at quarterback, Cooper had six receptions of 40 yards or more -- more than Jackson.
In fact, Cooper wound up sixth in the league with his six 40-yard receptions, behind only Jackson, Josh Gordon, A.J. Green, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery -- and ahead of Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.
Cooper may not stretch the field like DeSean because he doesn’t have his speed, but Cooper did prove that he can separate down the field and use his body to raise up and fight for the ball.
5. The playoffs
For whatever reason, Jackson has just not been a big-time postseason weapon. He caught that 62-yard touchdown from Donovan McNabb that gave the Eagles the lead in the fourth quarter of the 2008 NFC Championship Game, but that’s his only career postseason reception of 50 yards, and in six career playoff games he has only five catches of at least 20 yards.
In the regular season, Jackson has averaged 4.1 catches and 70 yards in his career.
In the postseason, he’s averaged 3.2 catches and 54 yards. In his last three playoff games, Jackson has eight catches, 114 yards and one TD.
Granted, you’re facing better teams, better defenses, and better cornerbacks in the postseason. But among wideouts who have played at least three playoff games since 2008, Jackson ranks 21st with his 54 yards per game.
For the sake of comparison, Jeremy Maclin has played two postseason games and has averaged 110 yards per game -- more than twice Jackson’s figure.