It was only a few minutes into the first quarter of Saturday’s Philadelphia vs Washington game when I noticed the negative exchanges that Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was having with Philly’s notoriously rowdy fans. Seated a few rows behind the Redskins bench, I could easily see Jackson's sarcastic gestures in response to the negative comments that were hurled at him.
In early 2014, former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who was fired yesterday with one game remaining after a tumultuous 6-9 campaign this year, decided to cut arguably their most talented offensive player amid off-the-field issues with Jackson that included reports of a bad attitude, missed team meetings, and allegations of potential gang involvement.
When asked if Jackson's character was the driving factor in his decision to part ways with him, Kelly’s response at the time was, “...It was purely a football decision. He's got great ball skills, great hand-eye coordination. (Jackson was) a very, very productive player for us last year. We were just going in a different direction at the wide receiver position here…”
“Honestly, that's their decision,” Jackson said when asked if he thought off-the-field issues played a role in his release. “They made the decision. They moved on. I moved on. I'm blessed, like I said, to have a second opportunity to play here in Washington...”
Fast forward to today, where the Redskins are the unexpected NFC East Division Champions and Chip Kelly is unemployed. Some blame Kelly’s coaching and management acumen, as he was also the General Manager in charge of all personnel decisions. Others are adamant that their lack of success is directly attributable to Jackson’s departure, or “his un-loyalty” as the Eagles’ fans view it.
During the game, you could hear the loud echoes of Jackson being boo’d throughout the stadium. Seated near me was a group who boldly wore alliterated jerseys with the last few letters of “Jackson” scratched out and replaced with new ones, spelling “Jackass”.
The emotions of the crowd pointed to feelings of betrayal. Everyone knows how serious Eagles fans are about loyalty in regards to their coaches & players.
Following the game, Jackson could be found doing a “Shhhh” gesture aimed at all the haters as Washington won 38-24. He even did a post game interview where he candidly expressed his feelings about the confusion.
It was evident that his desire to beat his former team, in Philly, fueled his resilience and passion throughout the game. He never let the taunting distract him. While tight end Jordan Reed was the Redskins’ most prolific weapon in the passing game with nine catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns, Jackson’s stats were more pedestrian: four receptions for 40 yards.
But make no mistake about it, his speed and the mere threat of his explosiveness opened the field up for Reed and receiver Pierre Garcon, who had seven receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown, to do some damage.
With the win against the Eagles, the Redskins clinched the division title and a playoff berth. They had a rocky start, as did Jackson, who injured his hamstring in the season’s opening game against Miami.
I’m sure that after beating the Eagles, he felt vindicated. After all, it ultimately was never Jackson’s decision to leave the franchise to begin with.
It’s utter craziness for Eagles fans to harbor any kind of anger towards him. Players have little to no say in roster moves. Fans forget that football is a business, and that players are simply assets that can bought, sold and moved around like pieces on a chessboard.
Jackson did a lot for the Eagles’ franchise as well as the city of Philadelphia. The fans in Philly should be more appreciative and simply wish him well.