PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Chip Kelly made it clear when he arrived in the NFL that he wanted players to do things his way.
DeSean Jackson found out the hard way.
Jackson had his the best season with the Philadelphia Eagles playing under Kelly in 2013. He had career-highs in receptions (82) and yards receiving (1,332) and tied his best with nine touchdown catches. Jackson went to his third Pro Bowl and helped the Eagles win the division and set several franchise records on offense.
Yet, Kelly cut Jackson a few months after the season.
Kelly has always maintained it was a “football decision” but teams don’t part ways with their most productive players without cause.
Jackson is only 5-foot-10 and 178 pounds and Kelly prefers bigger, stronger receivers. There’s one side of the football part of his decision. The other was his contract. He was scheduled to make $10.7 million in 2014. But the main reason Jackson was let go was he didn’t fit the “culture” Kelly was building in Philadelphia.
Kelly wants team-first, unselfish players who put wins ahead of personal stats. Though he never said Jackson wasn’t that guy, the receiver had a reputation for a diva attitude. Various reports said he pouted if he didn’t get the ball, he was late for team meetings and he was insubordinate to Kelly.
Jackson later blamed the Eagles for these media reports, calling it a “smear campaign.” He’s keeping the grudge to himself 21 months later.
“I’m happy to be here in Washington, and I’m not looking back,” Jackson said this week. “It’s in the past and it’s over and done with. I’m happy where I’m at now. I’m blessed to say I have a job and still playing at a high level.”
It was the first of several unpopular moves Kelly has made, and it cemented his image as an autocratic coach.
Jackson quickly landed with the Redskins after his release in March 2014, signing a three-year deal worth $24 million, with $16 million guaranteed.
He’s played a key role in helping Washington go from worst to first in the NFC East. Now, he has a chance to really stick it to Kelly.
The Redskins (7-7) can clinch the division title with a win in Philadelphia on Saturday night. The Eagles (6-8) need a win to avoid elimination.
“We know we need to do something that we haven’t been able to do in (three) years,” Jackson said. “So, we just want to take care of the opportunities that are handed to us. That’s at stake right now, which is win a football game. Regardless of anything else, I’m not going to let it be bigger than what it is.”
Jackson’s teammates know it’s not just another game to him.
“This is one of the reasons we recruited DJ to come here and one of the reasons that he came here, is to be able to face those guys,” defensive back DeAngelo Hall said. “And there’s no better situation than to face them for it all, for the division.
“I know he’s jacked-up and ready to roll, and I think all of us, we’ll have his back, too, so we’ll be ready to go.”
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)