In wake of DeSean Jackson’s unceremonious release in March, many Philadelphia Eagles players, coaches and fans alike were taken aback by the news. Sure, Jackson was on the negative end of the headlines leading up to the release, but at the moment, there was no real reason why he was shown the door. When news broke of Jackson’s selfish attitude in the locker room, the move still led to ambivalence throughout the organization.
After a few months to digest the news, the players have realized the true backstory behind Jackson’s release. With the move, head coach Chip Kelly sent a subliminal message that now permeates the locker room: either buy in, or cash out. Kelly emphasizes an implicit team element in his system, and does not tolerate anyone who is against this rule, no matter how impressive their resume is. Though they did not admit it at first, many players saw Jackson as a player who was content with scoring three touchdowns and losing instead of not scoring at all and winning.
This new law has cut deep on many veterans on the roster. Running back LeSean McCoy was one of the first to feel the kinetic energy of the move.
“The whole DeSean Jackson thing, that helped out, to be honest, in making all the other guys aware,” McCoy said. “It’s all possible. They’ll cut one of your best guys if [he’s] not buying in. On any team — any team — you look at that, and as a player, you can look at it from so many different sides, but no matter how good you are, you gotta follow these guidelines. And if you don’t, you could be gone … You gotta buy in.”
Kelly’s no-nonsense approach will lead to success in the future, which is a need for a team that has dealt with more than one diva wide receiver in the last decade. In order to cleanse the selfish stigma from the system, Kelly made the only play he had to make, which was to cut the cord. The move has left a searing message in the locker room since it took place. Cutting ties with a player who posted career-highs in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns may seem counter-intuitive, but Kelly would rather have a team player than someone who only looks at individual statistics. Kelly carries the same mantra that Mike Singletary carried during his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers.
Singletary famously stated that “I’d rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else rather than play with 11 when I know that right now, that person is not sold out to be a part of this team.”
Kelly must have heard this quote, and it has resonated with him ever since. Jackson, as talented as he was, only cared about his own productivity instead of his team’s success. Kelly wanted no part of Jackson’s ploy for self-aggrandizement, and ultimately made his biggest stamp by cutting his most talented wide receiver.
With the move, many Eagles players will now keep a closer eye on what leaves their voice boxes, and will need adhere to Kelly’s system in order to stick around. He has implanted a dangerous backlash in the locker room if they deviate from his team-oriented model. Gregg Popovich is applauding somewhere, for he is no longer alone with his coaching approach.
The NFL needs more coaches with a “no-nonsense” approach. Hopefully after this transaction, other NFL coaches will follow suit.