The NJ.com report that detailed DeSean Jackson’s history of canoodling with Los Angeles gang members told a chilling and surreal story about the former Eagles wide receiver.
But despite some interesting theories making their rounds, the story hardly served as the impetus or driving force behind the team’s decision to sever ties with the three-time Pro Bowl wideout.
It sure helped the Eagles alleviate some of the public relations hit they otherwise would have absorbed, but know this: The team had decided long before the story came out that Jackson wouldn’t be on its roster in 2014.
Those looking to connect the dots between the timing of the story and Jackson’s release aren’t seeing the forest for the trees. The Eagles have long known that Jackson’s close friends and associates aren’t the kind of guys you find on Boy Scout trips.
The reason Jackson earned his pink slip on Thursday is because the new sheriff in town, Chip Kelly, had his eyes on the renegade receiver from the coach’s first day on the job. Kelly may have told you he had no beef with Jackson -- “I like DeSean,” he said Wednesday in Orlando -- but even that answer dripped with hollow disingenuity.
Kelly might think Jackson’s an OK guy, but he wanted no part of Jackson Enterprises (posse, hip-hop label, etc) interfering with the unique and highly structured program he just started implementing at the NovaCare Complex around this time last season.
Even after turning a four-win team into an NFC East champion in his first season, Kelly is still turning over a roster he inherited and is still chiseling away until the finished product bears all of his fingerprints.
For a variety of reasons that were detailed nearly a month ago in this CSNPhilly.com story, Jackson didn’t fit Kelly’s long-term vision, and it became necessary, in the coach’s view, to cut the cord before the team brought in any more Kelly-endorsed players.
After losing Mike Vick and Jason Avant, an already young locker room looked even greener. If Jackson were still on the team, he’d be the fourth longest-tenured Eagle, behind Trent Cole, Todd Herremans and Brent Celek.
With six years under his belt and a paycheck in excess of $10 million for 2014, Jackson would have been viewed in the locker room as one of the team’s elder statesmen, someone who younger players would naturally gravitate toward because of his supreme talent and hefty contract.
And that’s a reality Kelly couldn’t tolerate.
Because despite the three Pro Bowls and world-class speed, Jackson didn’t fit Kelly’s vision of a team ambassador. Not with a substandard work ethic, a core of friends who invited danger, and the likelihood of another contract dispute on the horizon.
Jackson’s ability to irritate team authority predates Kelly’s arrival. There were times Andy Reid had reached his threshold and nearly gave Jackson his walking papers, but Reid put faith in his veteran locker room to rein in Jackson whenever the receiver needed someone in his ear.
Reid had Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, Quintin Mikell and several outspoken veterans presiding over and policing the clubhouse.
Kelly runs an entirely different program. The bedrock of his operation is a carefully crafted blueprint that leans as heavily on diet, nutrition, sleep and fitness as much as it does bubble screens and zone blitzes. Kelly’s regimen is founded in discipline and structure and requires players to buy in 24-7-365.
If you’re hanging on the West Coast in the offseason, Instagramming pictures of you and your posse, you’re probably deviating from Kelly’s script.
The fact that Jackson rubbed elbows with neighborhood guys who weren’t afraid to get dirty, as the NJ.com story outlined, wasn’t breaking news for the Eagles. They’ve long known about Jackson’s inner circle and the potential danger surrounding their explosive weapon.
But the story only cemented what the Eagles already knew, and make it virtually impossible to receive anything in return from a trade, which they had tried to do several times over several years.
So the Eagles on Friday resorted to the only tactic that remained. They forged ahead behind Kelly’s vision by ridding the roster of a supremely talented football player whose biggest crime was his inability to endear himself to Kelly.