It was a really amazing thought, wasn’t it? The thought that after being dumped by the Philadelphia Eagles, DeSean Jackson could be lighting it up in Oakland had many across the Raider Nation salivating. Visions of an Oakland Raiders offense — already revamped with the additions of Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew, and James Jones — adding the explosive Jackson had Raiders fans envisioning the team moving to another level — perhaps even a championship level. And who can blame them? Jackson is one of the league’s premier receivers, and the reports of mutual interest between the receiver and the Raiders gave fans a spark of hope. But in the end, it wasn’t meant to be. Jackson signed with the Washington Redskins on Tuesday night without ever having been invited out to Oakland for a meeting. And fans are left asking why while imagining what might have been.
The reason why Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie chose not to pursue Jackson, at least according to one theory, is that Jackson’s alleged ties to the Crips street gang cooled his interest. With the belief that Jackson is a hardcore banger off the field still being pushed by the media, some believe that soured McKenzie on the receiver. That belief was only bolstered by a report that the Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers, both teams very interested in Jackson, reached out to the LAPD to confirm the rumors about Jackson’s gang ties. The Redskins weren’t nearly as wary about Jackson’s personal life and quickly signed him to a three-year deal.
It would be the simplest thing to explain McKenzie’s handling of the DeSean Jackson situation, of course. But is it the right thing? Many don’t think the rumors about Jackson’s gang ties factored very heavily into McKenzie’s decision to not pursue the talented but difficult receiver. Many believe it wasn’t how he acted off the field that turned McKenzie off, but rather, how he acted on the field.
A column by PFT’s Mike Florio may tell the truer tale of why Jackson is not wearing Silver and Black right now:
“As one league source explained it to PFT, G.M. Reggie McKenzie is leery about Jackson. Not because of the trumped-up gang ties (the more we read the supposedly groundbreaking NJ.com article about suspected gang ties, the less hard news we actually see in it), but because of Jackson’s reputation as a me-first player who can’t be controlled.”
If you look at the players McKenzie has brought in this offseason, it’s clear that he has a very specific type — tough, blue collar, with a reputation for leadership and putting the team ahead of themselves to do whatever it takes to help the team win. An honest assessment of Jackson would have to admit that he doesn’t quite tick off a lot of boxes on McKenzie’s personality test. He can be temperamental, he can be demanding and he can be very difficult. While he’s a phenomenal athlete and one of the best receivers in the game, he doesn’t fit the profile of the player McKenzie is attempting to rebuild the Raiders around.
Coming from the Green Bay Packers front office, McKenzie learned that the Packers have had lasting success because they adhere to a very specific blueprint. They target very specific types of players in free agency and the draft. They have developed a very specific, very successful culture out on the Frozen Tundra, and it is one McKenzie is attempting to emulate in Oakland.
McKenzie is cautious by nature, and very conservative in his approach. Jackson, as gifted as he is, does not fit McKenzie’s personality, nor is he one who would subjugate himself to the team and to the culture of the organization. It wasn’t Jackson’s alleged gang ties that turned McKenzie off; it was his sometimes “me-first” attitude.
While the idea of seeing Jackson flashing down the sidelines in Oakland excited the Raider Nation, it was little more than a mirage from the start. Simply put, Jackson was a square peg that couldn’t be jammed into the new culture in Oakland that McKenzie is trying to build.