Right now, maybe, probably, certainly, the Eagles are looking to get rid of wide receiver Desean Jackson. (Edit: while I was preparing this article, the Eagles cut Desean. Also, we do try to edit articles before we post them. Even I don’t believe it sometimes.) Jackson is not a perfect player. He doesn’t seem particularly wise, he doesn’t seem tough, and the offense only requires him to do a handful of routes. Perhaps most damningly, he doesn’t pass the eye test.
We expect football players to be large and powerful, as if that bulk will keep them from being injured when clearly chance is the most deciding factor. Having wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson sets the bar high. Desean is built roughly like a whippet, and whereas he is sometimes listed as 5 “11 and 178lbs, he appears to be about 5”9 and a 165lbs. Its terrifying to imagine the amount of money committed to this man.
But he’s a devastating player, which everyone can agree on. And although it looks like his time with the Eagles is over, the organization is asking us to just trust them on the issue. To be clear, he’s an All-Pro receiver in the prime of his career, and they’re actually considering cutting him. (Edit. They did. Sigh.)
This is the same team that resigned Riley Cooper, a mid-tier receiver who got drunk at a country concert and threatened a black man with violence while using a racial epithet, and the organization rolled right with it. What did Jackson do that was worse than what Cooper did?
They won’t tell us.
Kelly is from the Belichickian school of coaching, where you simply don’t give out any information, and general manager Howie Roseman has gone mum. They just want you to know that they are the smartest guys in the room. And they might be.
What they don’t understand is that we’ve been here before. In fact we just went through this.
Joe Banner thought he was the smartest guy in the room. Coach Andy Reid kept things close to the vest. And the wide receiver was Terrell Owens.
Banner was a statistician, and generally those sorts of guys engender a certain amount of respect. He even looked smart. He made moves that made people nervous, but it was tolerated because he had empirical evidence, even if he didn’t explain it to the fans.
And Owens was an unsympathetic figure at times, a physical specimen with terrible communication skills, and poor planning. He signed a contract where the second year absolutely bottomed out, likely thinking that everyone would talk about it later. No one did.
We look at what could have been. His last two years could have been averaged out for a per year salary of $3 million, which at one point his agent suggested. There could have been a cool-headed sitdown between all parties. But Andy and Terrell got stubborn and Banner got smart. T.O. left for Dallas.
We watched in horror as Owens gained another 5399 yards, with 52 TDS, and an average yards per catch of 14.92 before his career derailed, and in all honesty, even after the league shunned him, there was no debate that he could still play. (He’s 40. He still can play.) It all fell apart. McNabb to Owens was unstoppable; it was the receiver that wanted the spectacular catch, and the quarterback with the mean deep ball and the insane mobility. It immediately made comparisons to Manning and Harrison, Rice and Montana, and Starr and Hornung.
And then it was gone.
There was a general unease about the subject but at the time, Owens wasn’t very popular. But the Eagles got rid of Brian Dawkins, a 7-time All Pro who should have retired with the team, because he was 30. And that’s when it hit us that the smart guys weren’t very smart at all. Dawkins was the guy that covered everyone’s mistakes in the secondary, the guy that let us blitz with impunity. He was the guy that made everyone work harder and play better.
Dawkins went onto two more Pro Bowls before retiring. He is a Hall of Famer. The Eagles have never gotten anything close to the play he’s given them.
The wheels came off, and no one looked smart anymore. Defensive co-coordinator Jim Johnson died, and so no one was around to bail the offense out. We watched as Philly missed out on linebackers, spent too much money in free agency on cornerbacks (all of whom needed to be on the outside to be effective) and put an offensive line coach as a defensive co-coordinator. Donovan McNabb turned out to be depressingly unteachable, his short accuracy was an issue his entire career, and he never improved the fundamentals that would have allowed him to deliver the ball with more accuracy. Reid was a master at preparation, but when the game plan needed adjustment, or it came time to control the tempo of the game, he froze completely. Banner got thrown out of Cleveland after a year.
These are open, ugly wounds, and Kelly and Roseman have reopened them. This offseason, for instance, there was a chance to address the safety position. You can’t get Dawkins back, but you needed a presence there. The Eagles signed Malcolm Jenkins, statistically one of the worst tacklers in the league. They had cap room and there was talent available. (Many fans wanted Jarius Byrd, who was possibly overpriced, but I have no reason why the Birds didn’t go after T.J. Ward.)
But Jackson is a bigger deal. It’s T.O. all over again, and now we know the Eagles blew it with that situation and we don’t want it to happen again. The Eagles want to release Jackson or get a third round pick for him, which is absurd. To lose a dynamic receiver and get nothing for it…it’s too much to ask. The Eagles recently lost Mike Vick, which makes a degree of sense, only to make overtures at Mark Sanchez.
Chip isn’t from around here, and I don’t think he gets it yet. But he’s making us real nervous. The smart guys never seem to look that smart when everything is said and done.