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Jackson could be first big Kelly power play

3/20/2014

As mystery and rumor continue to shroud the DeSean Jackson situation, I liked this Wednesday from Sheil Kapadia on Birds 24/7. Sheil poses the question of why the Philadelphia Eagles would want to get rid of Jackson, who was one of their best players in 2013. He dismisses money, scheme fit and receiver depth as possible reasons (though he doesn't address the possibility that the crux of the thing is off-field, away-from-the-facility behavior) and reaches the conclusion that, "The only logical explanation for trading Jackson would be that the head coach doesn't want him around."

I agree completely with that conclusion and also with the one Sheil articulates near the end of his post:

The best solution for Kelly would be to do what coaches are paid to do: figure it out. Last year, he put together a top-five offense, Jackson had a career year and the team went 10-6. Why not find a way to try and make it work?

Why not, indeed? Getting rid of Jackson would be a huge power play for the Eagles' second-year coach -- the biggest one I can think of since his arrival. It would constitute a territorial assertion and send a clear message to the rest of the roster and the rest of the league that, if you're not a Chip Kelly guy, don't expect to be on Chip Kelly's team. It could conceivably lead to other, similar moves and a slow purge of players who rub Kelly the wrong way.

Which on the one hand is okay, since he's the coach and obviously should have significant say in the matter of roster construction. He (and, heck, others in the organization) might have reasons we don't know about, reasons that making dumping Jackson the right move even though it looks weird from the outside. It's possible there is something behind this that would make the player look bad, and they are being secretive and delicate about it to avoid that.

But on the other hand, if this is the game Kelly's playing, it's a potentially dangerous one. When a coach starts operating as though he's determined to find "his kinds of guys" and plug them into his program, that's a recipe for trouble. The best coaches, the ones who are most successful long-term, are the ones that can win with whatever they have. And in Jackson, Kelly has something quite significant -- an elite talent who performed at an elite level in Kelly's first NFL season. There is no objective measure by which getting rid of Jackson would make the Eagles a better team, and if Kelly does end up doing it, he ought to have a very good reason.

Kelly's obviously very smart, and the division title in his rookie NFL season has earned him some benefit of the doubt. But let's be real here: His debut wasn't Jim Harbaugh. He didn't go 13-3 and get to the NFC Championship Game. I like what Kelly did a great deal and am eager to see what he does for an encore. But as fun and encouraging as the 2013 Eagles were to watch, the fact remains that it was only one season. If you're going to start ditching your best players after one good year, you'd better have big plans for several encores.

So all I'm saying is watch what happens here. We don't know how the Jackson situation will resolve itself. Could be a lot of noise about nothing. But if Kelly ends up getting rid of him, it's a significant moment early in his career that could have a major impact on future moves and the way the franchise is run going forward. Whether that's a good thing, of course, remains to be seen.