Forget about the careful spin. Forget what the Eagles said earlier this week about it being a football decision. For a better explanation of why the Eagles broke up with DeSean Jackson, consider Howie Roseman’s recent remarks.
The football decision stuff was nonsense. Or, if it wasn’t, it was a bad and indefensible football decision because Jackson went for 1,332 yards last season (second most in franchise history). No, cutting him and calling it a football decision was premeditated propaganda -- a transparent, if expected, talking point.
If you’re still looking for more understandable and justifiable motivations behind the move, there seem to be two. One is money. Jackson was set to make a lot of it this season -- more than $10 million. By releasing him, the Eagles reduced their cap hit in 2014 to a more manageable $6 million. They also saved themselves more than $30 million over the next three seasons. That’s not nothing. The other reason is something Roseman mentioned when he met with the media at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday.
The gathering was held to discuss the upcoming draft and the organization’s approach, but the discussion -- which lasted almost an hour -- took several tangential turns. Roseman was asked about the team’s philosophy on evaluating a prospective player’s personality and how he might fit into the Eagles’ dynamic. His response was interesting.
“Culture is really important to us,” Roseman said. “Culture and chemistry is a huge part of building a football team. When you talk about 53 guys trying to come together, which I thought we saw toward the end of last year and the second half of last year, you’re talking about people with diverse backgrounds from different parts of the country and they’re all trying to fit together.
"Getting that chemistry -- this is the one sport where one guy is not going to make the difference. You need to have a team. It’s very important to us when we talk about guys, having the right fit here in our building.”
As messages go, it couldn’t have been more obvious if Roseman had it delivered in a FedEx box …one guy is not going to make the difference. If you enjoy reading between the lines, there were plenty of others to separate and review.
“I look at it that, our players look at us when we bring in draft picks,” Roseman continued. “They look at who we put in front of that podium. If that guy is not a fit for us, that’s my responsibility. They’re going to look at me and say, ‘We have a good thing going here. We have good chemistry. We have a good culture. Why would we ruin that by bringing in someone who doesn’t fit?’”
Roseman never mentioned Jackson by name. He didn’t have to. The implication was tacit but clear. Even so, sportswriters are sportswriters and we have a way of pressing an issue even when that issue has just been addressed with carefully chosen language. And so the follow-up to all that was whether, when looking at matters of chemistry, wide receivers tend to be “divas” -- that was the word the reporter used -- compared to other players. The reporter said he was asking in general terms and not about any specific person.
Everyone had a good laugh. The guy asking the question laughed. The rest of the room laughed. It was a big charade.
“I haven’t done a study looking at personalities of each position,” Roseman replied.
Money and chemistry. The first is easier to quantify and qualify than the latter, but both played a part in the Eagles jettisoning Jackson. Roseman didn’t need to admit it overtly. And he wasn’t alone in hinting that maybe Jackson didn’t quite fit any longer.
Look at what some of the Eagles said when Jackson got cut. And, just as important, look at what they didn’t say. Jeremy Maclin said the Eagles will be fine without Jackson. Brandon Boykin didn’t seem too broken up about it. Even LeSean McCoy, a Jackson confidant, said he trusts Chip Kelly and added “the front office obviously knows what they’re doing.” The lack of outrage from the players was so pronounced that former Eagle and Redskin Brian Mitchell wondered aloud why Jackson’s teammates didn’t back him. The warmest farewell came from Nick Foles, who gave his usual, sanitized golly-gee take. That was it. And that was telling.
Whether you believe the stories about Jackson’s off-field associations had anything to do with his dismissal, it’s evident that the Eagles reached a point where they didn’t see a long-term future with the wide receiver. That’s interesting, if only because, at one time, they thought enough about Jackson’s potential to draft him. But somewhere along the way, for various reasons, the thinking changed. Here, again, Roseman’s comments on potential draft picks is instructive.
“When are these guys going to develop?” Roseman asked rhetorically. “When are they going to grow up? When are they going to realize, ‘This is my job, this is my livelihood, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’m going to do whatever it takes?’ I don’t know. There’s no insurance for that.”
No. But there’s recourse.