Blame selfish Jackson for missing meeting

Posted: November 13, 2011

AN "HONEST MISTAKE," that's how a spokesman for Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson described the incident that led to the mercurial receiver being suspended for yesterday's season-snuffing, 21-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

According to Jackson spokesman Bobby McCrae, Jackson missing a team meeting on Saturday was because he overslept and not because he was making a statement about his ongoing contract dispute with Eagles management.

"[Jackson] wants to be an Eagle," McCrae said. "When he gets back, he's going to be motivated and he's going to work hard to contribute to what he needs to do."

Well, whoopdee-damn-do!

When Jackson gets back to work, the Eagles will just be playing out the string of this lost season of incredible underachievement. Like Jackson's promise that this "will not happen again" matters now.

At 3-6, the Birds don't have a snowball's chance in a lava pit of rallying to make the playoffs. The only sliver of hope the Eagles had left was beating Arizona.

We can only speculate that Jackson cared enough to at least watch from his South Philadelphia home as his teammates fell on their swords in front of a packed house of seriously hissed-off Eagles fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

If he heard the booing from the crowd, maybe he understood he deserved most of it.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," Eagles coach Andy Reid said of the decision to deactivate Jackson. "I think it's out there now that he missed a meeting. He needs to step back and make sure that it doesn't happen again."

If you want to say that considering the magnitude of the situation Reid should have relaxed team protocol to try to salvage the season rather than make a point about discipline, that's fine.

But don't twist the story line.

The complete blame goes to Jackson. He was remarkably selfish.

"Teams consist of 53 guys," said Eagles' defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "We didn't have 53 guys today.

"I'll leave that situation to Coach Reid. I'm not aware of the details. I just know we were a guy short today."

It's really hard to comprehend how Jackson could have so hung his teammates out to dry.

"I haven't been here too many times where a guy is eligible to play that didn't," Eagles receiver Jason Avant said. "I won't blame any game on that. I think that the team had a chance to go out and prove a point and we didn't. We were still in the game and we still had an opportunity to win, but we just found a way to lose again."

I generally don't care enough to take one side or the other in contract fights. I get it that Jackson is ticked off about making $600,000 this season. I'll concede that he has far "outperformed" his initial contract and deserves a hefty pay increase.

But if his argument is that he deserves to be paid like an elite No.1 receiver, he's in a dream world. Jackson is a high-quality receiver but he is not in the "elite" category.

If you look at this realistically, Eagles management put Jackson on trial. It gave him a chance to swing the argument in his favor that he deserves to be paid like the best.

He's fumbled.

On the field, Jackson's numbers are off for a guy who's trying to show that he is one of the best.

Going into yesterday, there were already 56 receivers with more catches than Jackson's 29; he did not add to that total against Arizona.

Even his big-play ability has slipped. Jackson's yards-per-catch average (17.3) is the worst since his rookie season and his pace for catches of 20-plus yards is heading toward his lowest ever.

Fair or not, his slippage has been linked to his frustration over his contract. Now he has this "honest mistake."

As bad as Michael Vick threw the ball against Arizona, it's entirely possible that Jackson's presence would not have made a difference.

But it would have been nice to have found out.

If Jackson did watch, he saw how a true elite receiver conducts himself in Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. Coming into the game, the Cardinals were in a crappier position than the Eagles, having lost six of seven. But not only did Fitzgerald do everything required so that he could actually play in the game, he played like Arizona was competing in the NFC Championship Game.

With John Skelton subbing for the injured Kevin Kolb at quarterback, Fitzgerald helped his scattershot quarterback make just enough plays to pull out a victory.

Of the 13 passes targeted at Fitzgerald, perhaps three could have been labeled good throws. Yet Fitzgerald still pulled down seven receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. His spectacular, over-the-shoulder catch late in the fourth quarter set up the Cardinals' game-winning score.

"Larry, as he always does, said, 'Hey, just trust me and I'll make a play,' " Skelton said.

Does anyone believe that Jackson is entitled to say that anytime soon?

Send email to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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