Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why the Eagles Really Released DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson, the speedy, game-breaking wide receiver, a gangster?


The Philadelphia Eagles gave no official reason for dumping their best player after six years, after his finest season--82 catches, 1332 yards, 9 TDs. Unofficially though, the team was reportedly upset with Jackson's alleged gang affiliations, claiming that he's linked to the notorious, LA-based gang, the Crips, that he flashes gang signs and hangs with gang members. The Eagles, supposedly, feared his thuggish allegiances might have ugly consequences. Recalling how Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez, in jail for murder, sullied the image of New England, Philadelphia reportedly wanted to get rid of Jackson before he committed some felony or was linked to some criminal activity that would drag the Eagles' name into the gutter.

 Forget all that. The gang affiliation excuse is just a cover. Here's why the Eagles really released him.

On the one hand, the team was looking to save money by dumping Jackson, who makes $10.5 million a year and has three years left on a fat but non-guaranteed contract. But that's just a small part of it. The main reason for the Eagles' move is head coach Chip Kelly's ego. According to two sources close to the team, Kelly, a bigger control freak than most head coaches, simply tired of Jackson chipping away at his authority and scoffing at his rigid, unorthodox fitness program. Sources report that Kelly and Jackson were in constant conflict. It didn't help that Jackson hated and wouldn't listen to receivers coach Bob Bicknell. Kelly felt he and his coaches were constantly disrespected by Jackson. Some coaches will put up with that kind of hostile attitude from their star players. But not Kelly.

Jackson and his head coaches always butt heads. When he was a Cal last decade he gave coach Jeff Tedford fits. Reportedly Jackson was the leader of a pack that created havoc in that locker room. His first coach with the Eagles, Andy Reid, now heads the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that could really use Jackson. But the Chiefs don't want him, partly because they don't have the money but mainly because Reid has had his fill of the Jackson distraction.

Unquestionably, Jackson is a handful for any coach. Smug and defiant, he's strongly anti-authoritarian, the kind of player who's late for meetings and doesn't listen to coaches. Like Randy Moss, Jackson, on the field, doesn't always go all out. But like Moss in his prime, Jackson, who has blazing speed, scares the hell out of defenses and is a constant threat to score, either as a wide receiver or as a punt/ kick returner. More negatives. He doesn't have a great work ethic and is a distraction in the locker room, often setting a bad example for younger players. Off the field he hangs out at night clubs and, yes, pals around with hoodlums. Jackson grew up in Compton, a tough Los Angeles suburb, and chooses not to distance himself from the dark side of the hood.

OK, so Jackson is a bad actor. But he's not a gang member. Just because he still has Compton buddies, that doesn't make him a gang-banger. If Eagles' head coach Kelly has problems with Jackson's behavior he should say so, and not hint that he's releasing him because he has gang ties.

By the way, most teams, according to several sources, have young players who pal around with gang members. These players are just more quiet about it than Jackson. According to these sources, a few players on NFC teams are actual gang members. They grew up in gangs and secretly maintain gang ties. It's all part of the seamy NFL underground. Jackson, though, sources confirm, really isn't part of that underground.

Rumors of his gang affiliations haven't scared away other teams. Jackson is in talks with the Washington Redskins. If that doesn't work out, the Raiders and the Browns are waiting in line. In addition, insiders claim the San Francisco 49ers are interested.

Clearly, this fall Jackson will once again be be terrorizing NFL defenses.