Kelly exerts clout with release of Jackson

In happier times: DeSean Jackson and coach Chip Kelly near the end of an Eagles victory.
In happier times: DeSean Jackson and coach Chip Kelly near the end of an Eagles victory. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: March 31, 2014

It's easy for Chip Kelly now, just as it was easy for Andy Reid in those early halcyon days when he was a young head coach with the unyielding belief that his way was the only way.

Step out of line, the men come and take you away.

That's a line from the Buffalo Springfield song "For What It's Worth," and it's the way every NFL coach would like to run his team, especially in the beginning, when they are establishing their desired culture. I'm quite sure it was not the song on DeSean Jackson's iPod when the Eagles called Friday to tell their star wide receiver he had been released.

Only the Eagles know exactly why they decided to discharge Jackson after the best season of his six-year career, but the fact that the speculation covered so many possibilities - the money, the attitude, work ethic, the burglary, the arrest record, and possible gang connections - explains quite a bit.

The Eagles were sick of this guy and didn't think he was worth the $10.25 million base salary he would have received in 2014, let alone the raise he insinuated he deserved.

By choosing not to comment, the Eagles opened themselves to all sorts of criticism, with the most common one on social media being that they rewarded a white player who gave evidence of being a racist (Riley Cooper) with a contract extension, but Jackson received a swift kick out the door based on pure speculation.

Jackson naturally defended his character.

"I work very hard on and off the field, and I am a good person with good values," he said in a statement. "I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true."

Jackson can back up some of his words by pointing to his campaign against bullying that received national attention a couple of years ago. On the other hand, he was hardly a model citizen on or off the field. He used a gay slur on a radio station in 2011, there are lyrics demeaning white women in his 2013 rap song "Diamonds on My Neck," and he cannot defend using a Crips gang sign during the Eagles' opening-night win at Washington last season.

Maybe more is about to become public about Jackson's gang affiliations and his fascination with guns. Maybe he is headed down a disastrous road, and the Eagles did not think they were going to be able to stop him. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for the cocksure receiver in the same way Cris Carter received a cold slap in the face when he was cut by Buddy Ryan in 1989. Carter, of course, became a Hall of Famer.

Here's hoping that if Jackson is on the road to ruin he takes a right turn and gets his act together. In doing a story on Jackson last season, I talked to Jason Avant, perhaps the classiest and most-respected player in the locker room. The Eagles were playing Detroit that week, and Avant had nothing but compliments for Jackson's ability. When the conversation turned to Calvin Johnson, however, he made a point about the Lions receiver that he could have never made about Jackson.

"The thing I like about [Johnson] is he is very, very, very humble for a great player," Avant said. "Every time I cross paths with him, that's what strikes me."

It was an interesting statement considering we were also talking about Jackson.

More than likely Jackson's release is about two things: money and might.

Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman did not think Jackson was worth the money for the amount of aggravation he was causing, and the second-year head coach had enough conviction in his offensive system that he believes it will work just as well, if not better, without his diminutive receiver.

Given Kelly's preference for big over little - "We want taller, longer people because bigger people beat up little people" - it would have been interesting to see if the coach would have been as quick to make this move if Jackson stood 6-foot-6 and weighed 240 pounds.

You can be sure that a big receiver will be added in this year's draft. And you can also be sure that if Kelly and Roseman thought Jackson's presence was imperative to winning in 2014 he would still be here, unless they knew Aaron Hernandez-size legal issues were forthcoming.

If this isn't that serious, the Eagles could have easily kept Jackson around. The Baltimore Ravens retained Ray Lewis after he was charged with murder, and they haven't released Ray Rice despite recent assault charges.

Should Jackson be every bit the good citizen and teammate he says he is, then the Eagles just took a huge risk.

Andy Reid used to think he could win by doing things his way, and he discarded players - Jeremiah Trotter immediately comes to mind - when they still had a lot of value. Reid won quite a bit, but as the years went by and the Super Bowl title eluded him, the coach started to do things a different way. It eventually led to his demise.

Two years in, and with a division title under his belt, Kelly is sure he is doing things the right way. He is also sure that he will fill the void left by Jackson with a bigger, better player willing to do things his way.


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