The strange saga of DeSean Jackson’s exit from Philadelphia was never really fully addressed by the star receiver until now.
First a little background…
One man’s trash is often another’s treasure in pro football, and the Washington Redskins were certainly thrilled to scoop up what the Eagles left at the curb last year, the diva-like wideout.
On the surface at least, the Eagles’ divorce from Jackson didn’t make a lot of sense because the three-time Pro Bowl selection seemed like a natural fit for Chip Kelly’s basketball-on-turf, up-tempo offense — a system designed to create space, something the ultra-speedy Jackson could do just by stepping on the field.
After all, Jackson is one of the NFL’s true home-run hitters, capable of popping the top off any defense with his 4.2 speed, and almost assuring that a safety will be back-peddling at the snap of the football.
He also happened to be coming off his best statistical season in the City of Brotherly Love, compiling 82 receptions for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.
So what went wrong?
Hindsight and Kelly’s now well-documented modus operandi say it was a cocktail of money and personality.
Jackson was seemingly always complaining about his paycheck in Philly despite a salary-cap figure that would have hit eight figures had he remained with the Eagles for the ’14 season. Meanwhile, the enigmatic speedster often butted heads with Kelly, wasn’t exactly Jerry Rice when it came to his work ethic, and kept some spotty off-the-field company at times.
In Kelly’s mind, it was simple addition by subtraction. Think the New York Giants moving on from talents like Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey so Eli Manning didn’t have to deal with their mouthy and often disruptive behavior.
Behind the scenes, Philadelphia’s spin was that, while explosive, Jackson was a one-trick pony, limited as a receiver because of his blocking deficiencies, route-running issues and concussion history.
And that’s actually a defensible position but instead of explaining that in a lucid fashion, the Eagles played dirty pool, convincing a naive, young reporter to play up Jackson’s potential gang ties in an effort to garner some plausible deniability for letting a star player walk and getting nothing in return.
Muddying Jackson wasn’t all that difficult either because he can be his own worst enemy at times. He has often flashed Crips gang signs on Instagram, and was actually seen throwing a sign at his now teammate DeAngelo Hall on the field back in ’13. Meanwhile, he does often hang around with undesirables accused of doing some dastardly things.
To this day, Jackson remains an immature, knucklehead at times, but his apologists can correctly point to the fact that the star receiver has never gotten into any serious off-the-field incidents, something a lot of other NFL players with far better reputations can’t say.
It’s now been 15 months since Jackson traded uniforms in the NFC East and he finally addressed the gang rumors on the debut of his new BET reality show “DeSean Jackson Home Team.”
“When I was released by the Eagles, I feel they tried to paint a picture that definitely wasn’t true. It was a slap in the face, coming off one of my best seasons in the NFL,” Jackson said on the show.
He then told his friends, “The Eagles tried to blow me up. That’s cold how they did it.
“That’s why I think they fired me. Have I went to jail? … I ain’t done none of that.”
It’s clear that Jackson remains bitter over how the Eagles treated him because the first shots of the program are of the wideout lamenting, “I was at the top of the top. And then I got released. … It was a smear campaign. Things media said about me, I bet you could say that about the majority of people in the NFL. I got a second chance to play in the NFL and I’m proving I’m one of the best receivers in the game.”
Jackson did produce like he always does with a very bad Redskins team last season, compiling 56 receptions for 1,169 yards and six touchdowns with an NFL-high 13 catches of over 40 yards.
He also got a modicum of revenge over Kelly and Co. when we helped Washington knock the Eagles out of the playoff hunt with a 27-24 Week 16 win in which he caught four balls for 126 yards
“I had an awesome year and I’m going to have another awesome year,” Jackson said. “End of the day, I play football at a high level so I don’t care too less anything about nothing. Go look up the No. 1 receiver in the NFL. I’m the No. 1 receiver. So I’m not getting caught up. I know what I can do.”
Of course, Jackson isn’t even in the conversation as the NFL’s No. 1 receiver and remains blissfully unaware why some in the league would question his behavior.
“I work hard and I play hard,” Jackson remarked.
It’s the play part that made Kelly uncomfortable and likely keeps Jay Gruden from a few winks at night as well expect when “Jaccpot” has the Eagles in his sights.
“They call me the Cowboy killer.” Jackson said. “I’m a Giants killer, I’m a Cowboys killer, now I’m an Eagles killer, too.”
And now you know why.
You can reach JF McMullen at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also listen to John weekly on YAHOO! Sports Radio, ESPN Atlantic City, ESPN Lexington and ESPN Southwest Florida.