Can The Philadelphia Eagles Win The Right Way?
Until the spring of 2014, the decisions of the Philadelphia Eagles on who played and who went was virtually exclusively made from the box score. Statistically high guys got the fat paychecks, and guys who didn’t get on the stat sheet were not resigned. In essence, it gave players an incentive to show up as individuals, or keep their suitcases packed and be ready to move on to the next team. In the face of a team which struggled the entire 2013 season to rebuild chemistry, to focus on the team and less upon the player, this was the wrong reward system.
Well, Eagles fans are about to find out. Without covering an aspect of the storyline which has been saturated in recent weeks, the Birds felt it was in their best interest to part ways with their top wide receiver of 2013, DeSean Jackson. Without justifying the rights or wrongs of the decision, with neither the positive nor negative qualities of Jackson, the team made a decision that was seperate from the box score, from the stats page.
Some personnel decisions are based upon statistics. Other personnel decisions are based upon “fit”, or team chemistry. But some decisions in the NFL are based upon personal accountability.
Every Eagles fan knows the history of former Eagles WR Chris Carter – the player who was cut by then head coach Buddy Ryan for a reason once given as “all he does is catch touchdowns.” That story was a story of tough love, of a young man on a course of self-destruction who nearly lost it all, and who reclaimed his greatness due to that one act of reality check. In fact, Chris Carter stated before the world during his NFL Pro Football Hall of fame acceptance speech: “it was the best thing that could ever happen to me. Buddy Ryan and your lovely wife, I thank you,” Carter said on Saturday. “You’re going into the Hall with me tonight.”
On Friday, March 28, the Philadelphia Eagles made an unpopular decision to part ways with wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Despite similarities to other teams, other situations, and other times, this decision is uniquely postioned because it is a case of a team choosing an action that complicates their road to success. In releasing Jackson, the team receives no compensation, takes an immediate hit to their salary cap, and loses the production of a wide receiver who only caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.
A week ago, I examined some of the forces in play that were leading up to the decision announced on Friday. (Click here for that article ) I don’t want to point to a specific incident, a single action or gesture, as the reason for the parting of ways. I merely want to visit the reality that it was not a warm and fuzzy relationship. In the early stages of building a winner, an architect has to consider where he is putting his foundation. Chip Kelly and the Eagles have decided that there is a fault line running under their relationship with DeSean Jackson, one that could lay dormant his entire career but one that can erupt with such force that it could cause the entire team to shake apart, and place the team back in the rubble of 2012 all over again.
So the Philadelphia Eagles have chosen a higher road. They have agreed to disagree and have merely allowed DeSean Jackson to pursue his NFL career unfettered. While it has caused far too many to cry out against the team, its one of the more noble acts in a profession of “what have you done for me lately?”. It was an act of tough love. The team knows what it has lost in the box score, and have concluded there is an acceptable risk here at this point in time.
For the player, DeSean Jackson is free to choose his next team, perform as best he can, and conform or remain an individual focused player throughout his career. When the Eagles cut Chris Carter, nobody knew why. It wasn’t until Chris Carter, with tears in his eyes, boldly answered once and for all the story behind that action during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
It may be that is the future that lies before DeSean Jackson, to reveal the hidden chapter of his career at the moment of celebrating it. From the hearts of all true Eagles fans, we certainly hope that is the case. But there is a great deal of respect that must be cast to the Philadelphia Eagles as well. Its far easier to look the other way and proclaim the “Just Win Baby!” attitude that so many teams have taken to their Super Bowl Victory.
As desperate as the Philadelphia Eagles are to win a super bowl, its a story that I hope has a happy ending. It would be nice to see an NFL team win the right way.