By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — It’s business, not personal.
In the curious case of the release of Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, the Philadelphia Eagles – the team in town that lays claim to business acumen but has gone the longest, 54 years, without a championship – are trying to run this one up the flag pole.
I’m not saluting.
And neither should you.
With the Eagles winning a Super Bowl , at least while I still have my own teeth, forever resting atop of my SBL (Sports Bucket List) – above such lofty events as Temple beating Penn State in football or reaching the Final Four in hoops – I can’t help but feel a step further away, not closer, with Jackson gone.
It doesn’t matter to me that Jackson was a “me-first” diva whose primary concern was making plays, often for his own highlight reel. Unless his showboating proved costly, like when he spiked the ball before crossing the goal line in Dallas as a rookie, I didn’t care what he did to celebrate.
And neither should you.
He was a big play waiting to happen, a weapon opponents had to game plan around. And that’s not easily replaced.
Sometimes it takes a football lifetime to replace a key player. Consider Brian Dawkins and what has happened at safety since the Eagles let him go.
Thinking you can just plug in Damaris Johnson or B.J. Cunningham and get the same results is nothing shy of sheer top-down arrogance after but one season of surprising success in which the Eagles were really an 8-8 team dressed for the playoffs in a 10-6 disguise.
They are not in a position, not yet, to jettison talent from its nucleus.
Everything being funneled to the masses through the gullible media as rationale is a carefully crafted façade designed to keep Eagles Nation distracted from the bottom line that they screwed up.
Unless someone can prove a misdemeanor, let alone a felony, I really only have limited interest in Jackson’s personal life.
If you left the NFL with just boy scouts and choir boys, it would be more of a No Fun League than it is already.
That Jackson lived paycheck to paycheck, despite making millions, is on him.
He is not the first athlete to do so, and he won’t be the last.
He preferred gangsta rapping to sitting around team campfires, joining hands with Jeff Maehl and Roc Carmichael and singing “Kumbaya” while drinking a Chip Kelly smoothie during a team-bonding drill?
I should care?
You should care?
Maybe, in the abstract, but I don’t.
And neither should you.
We have been sticking by this team through owners, coaches and players. They come and go, sit in the back room and count out the millions while we suffer.
Maybe they don’t owe us an explanation, and maybe they can’t legally give us one anyway. But they owe us better than what they gave us in a scenario that is sure to come back and haunt us in our nightmares.
The reality is that the Eagles, in trying to take the high road, have made it way more personal.
And it’s going to hurt business.
Jackson missed team charity events? Blew off his mandatory exit interview after the season-ending loss to New Orleans in which he was a spark in a comeback bid? Didn’t return phone calls from his coach?
Not good. The team, no team, can have separate sets of rules for players.
But they could have handled it differently.
If they believed he was a detriment, then try the trade route. At least you can control where he goes and get something, even if it’s not equal value, in return.
Because the NFL is dysfunctional in this regard, making trades hard to swing without being creative, they were left with one choice.
Make it work.
Call him in the first day the team reconvenes and lay down the law. Tell him this season is his last chance to stay an Eagle, which would mean his last chance to play for big bucks.
Tell him he is going to run laps, instead of plays, for missing the exit interview.
And then he begins with the third string.
Think he is embarrassing you with his antics? Embarrass him back.
It would blow over soon enough.
It’s better than letting him walk for nothing and facing him twice a year for the next three seasons while he has a chip on his shoulder.
The system is great, but talented players kind of make that engine go.
And they gave one away. Gift-wrapped.
I don’t care if they take one of the many stud receivers available in May’s draft at No. 22 and then hedge their bet with one of two more from the bumper crop.
Heck, I don’t care if they trade up and pluck the gem of the class, Sammy Watkins of Clemson.
Rookie receivers, no matter how much freakish talent they may possess, usually need refinement in the nuances of the pro game – nurturing lasting into their second or third seasons – before being able to reach their full potential.
The Eagles had a sure thing at the receiver position. They re-signed both Riley Cooper, who thrived against single coverage for a career year while Jackson attracted attention, and a medical question mark in Jeremy Maclin. Then, they cut good guy Jason Avant – the purported babysitter for Jackson – to keep from having too much money dumped in the wide receiver stable.
It was believed that Jackson, with Cooper and Maclin, was going to make for a trio that would be impossible to defend – particularly with tight end Zach Ertz primed for a breakout sophomore season and veteran all-purpose back Darren Sproles added to the mix.
With opponents gasping for air while the Eagles run plays every 15 seconds, it would have been open season for quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy to take advantage of the litany of mismatches.
Pull Jackson from the mix?
Well, the picture is a bit different, isn’t it?
On top of that, adding insult to injury, the Eagles stumbled on the run here. They were clumsy in their long-shot trade attempts and were forced to release him after a report from NJ.com – one that would have gotten a D-minus from any mail-order journalism class – that merely reiterated a bunch of guilt-by-association babble about the three-time Pro Bowler coming off his best statistical season.
Realizing they couldn’t trade him at that point, and not being men enough to give it another shot, he was released.
Jackson was signed by a division rival, the Washington Redskins, at a pay rate that maybe could have been renegotiated – albeit with some guaranteed money to continue living in the moment – to stay here and make it work.
All in all, I would say it was a poorly played hand.
If the decision was that the NovaCare Castle wasn’t big enough to hold both the egos of Kelly and Jackson, there were still better options.
Why not release him before free agency and have more money freed up to sign a better safety – i.e. Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner – than using spin control to make Malcom Jenkins sound like the second coming of Ronnie Lott and bringing back the soft-hitting Nate Allen on the premise that he was “better” than awful last season?
Instead of career special teamers, like Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman, maybe they could have made a play for pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware when he was released by the Cowboys.
Instead, the dire need for an edge pass rusher remains unaddressed.
There are players who do that type of thing in the draft, but now the Eagles are boxed into a corner and have to load up on receivers because they couldn’t find a way to make it work with Jackson.
This, my fellow sufferers, is bad business.
Make that 55 years without a championship.
Tough to swallow when you weren’t even alive in 1960 and have since invested so much time, emotion and energy in this team.
So, yeah, I’m taking it personally.
And so should you.
This column first appeared at http://www.phillyphanatics.com