When the going gets weird, Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz (and BGN) is a reliable source of level-headed perspective. Plowing through all the Djacc angst, I noticed an interesting cautionary note in one of Tommy's recent columns:
As to this decision, I am curious how much of it was Kelly and how much of it was others in the organization. DeSean does not feel like a Chip Kelly type of player, but at the same time, Kelly is an offensive coach that loves playmakers. DeSean can be a dynamic playmaker. I’m sure Kelly had a hand in this decision, but I don’t know if he was the one who got the ball rolling and pushed for the move to be made.
Everyone has been assuming that this was Chip Kelly laying down the law, being the new sheriff in town. His well-publicized demotion of DeSean to the 2nd and 3rd teams in training camp fed this assumption. But it the reality may be different. There are a number of quiet hints in various articles that indicate that Chip may not have been the prime mover.
Lawlor -- who writes for the Eagles' website -- was cagey about who "others in the organization" might be, but there are only two possibilities -- GM Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie. And only Roseman makes sense. There's no reason that Lurie would change his mind between 2012, when the team signed Jackson to his five-year contract, and now. Even if you think those "gang affiliations" influenced the team, and I'm not convinced they did, the incidents in the NJ.com article took place well before that extension was signed. There is nothing new to sway him.
It's a little different for Howie Roseman, however. He was not in charge when the decisions to draft and extend Jackson were made, not the way he is now. When Andy Reid was fired, it was widely reported that Howie Roseman was gaining back for the GM's office some of the extraordinary power that Reid had. He had gained ground earlier when Joe Banner was fired, too, and is widely credited with the strong drafts of the last two years. After Reid's firing, Lurie gave a long statement which Mike Florio summed up this way: "Roseman was trying to get Reid to make other decisions in past years, and hindsight was proving Roseman to be right."
Part of that was Reid's acceptance of players' misdeeds. As Tommy noted, "Andy Reid was more tolerant of bad behavior than most fans realize. Reid loved his players and tried to protect them as much as he could." This certainly included DJax, who had a bit of a father-son relationship with Reid.
Jackson's father died in 2009, even as Reid's son Garrett struggled with the drug addiction that would kill him three years later. It's a sad and sweet idea, the two sharing a bond of grief, but it may have made it hard for Reid to hear Roseman's advice on the mercurial receiver. Or maybe Reid knew DeSean better and Roseman was wrong about trying to unload him. Once Reid was gone, it didn't matter.
When announcing Reid's departure -- and before Chip was hired -- Lurie mused about the temptation of grabbing flawed players to be that final piece of the puzzle that gets you to the Super Bowl. He admitted falling for that temptation himself, and added:
"... at times you had to probably be a little more self-disciplined and say, 'You know, doing that, injecting that in the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, that's not the best thing to do.'
Was Lurie referring to Jackson? The team got rid of other players with bad attitudes -- such as Nnamdi Asomugha -- that same off-season. But we now know is that the Eagles were shopping Jackson around last year, too, soon after Lurie's comment about locker room chemistry. According to CSN Philly:
The Eagles last year took inquiries about Jackson and were initially asking for a second-round pick, the source said, but dropped their demand to a middle-round pick but were still unable to trade him.
This still could have been Chip's idea. But -- as I'll explore in a separate article about Chip's handling of difficult players at Oregon -- he never dismissed anyone there without a triggering incident such as an arrest or a fight. DeSean feels different.
Roseman, on the other hand, has more specific reasons to be glad that Jackson was released. Besides his expensive contract -- the largest on the team -- Djax had signed with a new agent and was hinting at more labor strife. Roseman certainly hasn't forgotten Jackson's training camp holdout in 2011, or the way he skipped meetings and (allegedly) played it safe on the field that year until he got more money.
After the 2013 season ended, when Djax told reporters that he wanted a better contract, he also said
"I think my agent Joel Segal has a great plan going into this offseason,"
and then skipped out on the annual exit interview every Eagles player has at the end of the season. Other Segal-repped players have staged hold-outs, such as Titans RB Chris Johnson in 2011. It's more likely that this implicit threat would bother Roseman, who's in charge of contract negotiations, than it would Kelly (who always craved a speedy deep threat at Oregon and never had one.)
In the end, whether Roseman or Kelly was the driving force might not really matter. The two appear to agree on most personnel decisions and undoubtedly considered that compatibility in deciding to work together.
But at the very least, we should be careful in making announcements about whether Chip Kelly "can work with divas" or "tolerates dissent." Because the decision to release DeSean may not have been his idea at all.