Privately, he would laugh about it. Malcolm Jenkins knew the score. He knew in 2014 that Eagles fans were clamoring for the “other guy.” Jenkins, who signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal, with $8.5 million guaranteed, with the Eagles under Chip Kelly then was considered the “consolation prize,” because the Eagles fanbase was clamoring for free agent safety Jairus Byrd, who agreed to a six-year, $56 million contract, including $28 million guaranteed, with Jenkins’ former team, the New Orleans Saints.
Jenkins wound up playing six seasons with the Eagles, never missing a game, and wound up being a foundational piece for the 2017 Eagles Super Bowl championship team. Byrd played 33 games in three years for the Saints, suffering a torn lateral meniscus knee ligament four games into his Saints career and was out of the NFL after the 2017 season.
History, for once, worked out for the Eagles, because without Jenkins on the field and in the locker room, the 2017 Eagles wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl.
Jenkins brought what he learned his rookie year from the 2009 Super Bowl champion Saints, absorbing everything he could from Darren Sharper, Roman Harper, Jonathan Vilma and Jabari Greer. He instituted a camaraderie and the same winning mentality that blossomed with the Eagles. Jenkins’ first two years were a struggle under Kelly, but when the Eagles made Doug Pederson the head coach, the lines of dialogue between the players and the coaching staff opened up.
The defense, under Jim Schwartz, knew what worked and what didn’t. It was more than Xs and Os moving on computer screens and iPads. It was feedback between players and coaches—and it worked.
Under Pederson, through conduits like Jenkins and Chris Long, the players took more ownership of the team. If there was a problem, Jenkins or Long would inform Pederson what was happening and address it. If there were issues that spilled over to the field, Jenkins would tell Pederson and things were handled internally.
Jenkins got together the defense each week to go out to dinner. Jenkins would gather as much of the team as he could to his charity affairs, where a large portion of the team would show up, save for a few choice offensive players who would be conspicuous by their absence. It didn’t matter. A bond was forming with the 2017 Eagles that was tighter than a Tyson Fury fist.
And at the stem was Jenkins.
On Wednesday, Jenkins went public with his retirement after 13 years in the NFL—winning two Super Bowls. He grew in love with Philadelphia so much that he opted to stay and live here.
“After 13 seasons, my time on the football field has come to an end,” Jenkins wrote in a social media post. “I’m just a boy from Piscataway, who through this game, became a champion in the sport and a champion for the people. My time on the field may be over, but I’ll never stop fighting for the people.”
What he left out was the fact he was a kid hardly recruited out of Piscataway High School and caught the eye of an Ohio State coach at one of the Buckeyes camps. Once given that open door, he took off from there—the quintessential Philadelphia story.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie thanked Jenkins in a statement released by the team for his time as an Eagle.
“In so many ways, Malcolm Jenkins defined everything we want a Philadelphia Eagle to be,” Lurie said. “He was talented, intelligent, versatile, and reliable. He was physically and mentally tough. He led with his words, with his actions, and with the professionalism he brought every single day to our building.
“He never took a single snap off — not in a game and not in a practice. Few players have ever had a personality and a style of play that meshed more perfectly with the City of Philadelphia. He contributed to so many memorable moments during his six years in Philadelphia, including our first Super Bowl Championship.”
The Eagles have had great leaders in their history. Brian Dawkins and Chuck Bednarik come to mind. The city of Philadelphia has had its share of great sports leaders, too, like Pete Rose, Bobby Clarke and Julius Erving. Jenkins, though an Eagle for just six years, belongs on that pantheon.
The Eagles would have never won Super Bowl LII without him.