DeSean Jackson was cut less than a week ago for a list of vague but troubling reasons. One of the most explosive players in the NFL over the past six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Jackson was unceremoniously let go for some combination of having a poor work ethic, not playing well with others, and something else … what was it? Oh, right, his possible connections with a Los Angeles gang.
I purposely put the whole ‘gang’ thing last on the list for two reasons: (1) it can’t be proven, but more because (2) it’s already become a footnote in his bio. He’s a member of the Washington Redskins for the bargain price of $24 million over three years, $16 million of it is guaranteed. Move forward. Get away from the possible, probable and definite issues Jackson carries with him. He’s a dynamic playmaker, and if he can help the Redskins surpass their division-rival Eagles (as well as the Cowboys and Giants) then he’s an absolute steal.
What’s most likely to happen: DeSean Jackson will put up some serious numbers for the Redskins. He’ll take attention away from WR Pierre Garcon, stretch the field for RB Alfred Morris, and take pressure off of QB Robert Griffin (or QB Kirk Cousins). And by ‘pressure’ I mean in terms of how often teams blitz. They’ll need more players in the secondary to keep up with DJax. I actually think the pressure from fans, media, teammates, media, coaches and media will skyrocket for RGIII. (Yeah, media is mentioned three times to account for all of the NFL coverage out there.)
Jackson won’t commit any crimes worse than a traffic violation. He’ll show up to voluntary workouts like he never has before. He’ll be a boyscout. And when he torches the Eagles secondary, win or lose, Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ brass will draw ire from fans, media, teammates, media, coaches and media. Washington will likely be better, the Eagles might be worse, and if it results in the Redskins finishing ahead of Philly, the Eagles will never hear the end of it.
But the Eagles will not have been wrong. Someone with more clout than me needs to remind them of that fact. It will never be proven, but Philly’s higher-ups may have at the very least prevented a crime or at the most saved a life. It’s not that dramatic of a statement. They’ll never dish the full list of reasons why he was released, but just consider what it would take for your team to dump arguably its best player in the prime of his career. It wasn’t money–Jackson just had a career year AFTER signing a huge contract, so his value was still going up. They had to have found something, and it may have been so small as identifying a destructive pattern that needed to be broken before it turned a man into a criminal (see Aaron Hernandez).
Ever see ‘Minority Report’ with Tom Cruise? The crux was a paradox of punishing people for committing a crime they did not yet commit. If you stop them, then they can’t be guilty. In this case (reality), instead of charging someone with future crime and putting them into some trance-inducing prison, DeSean Jackson was fired. Again, there’s no telling what he might have done. He was punished for a having an alarming probability of poor conduct with a wide range of possible outcomes. *He was pulled over for DUI before the possibility of causing a fatal accident. It’s likely the Eagles saved his life.
But history will never write it that way unless Jackson has some deep realization and at some point publicly thanks his former employer for it. The likely facts will be that Jackson has a productive, maybe illustrious career with the Redskins. The Eagles will not reach a Super Bowl without him, and they’ll get shamed ( externally) for letting go of a unique talent in his prime. Even if Jackson were to get into trouble after a successful career is over, the team would not be able to escape the criticism of giving up on him.
What is also likely is that the Eagles made the right decision. They may have even saved a life. Maybe not a literal life, but more that they broke a man’s destructive pattern, allowing him to refocus his life into something productive instead of criminal.
*To be clear, this statement is metaphorical. As far as I know, DeSean Jackson has no DUIs on his record.
NOTE: This was spurred by the ESPN article announcing Jackson’s signing with the Redskins. In that article (roughly 16 paragraphs long), there was no mention of why Jackson was released by the Eagles in the first three-quarters of the story. ESPN is already over it.