For months now, Eagles fans have been following head coach Chip Kelly like one tracks an urban legend. Blurry pictures of Kelly at college Pro Days, a displaced voice of the coach through the team as they released statements on free agent acquisitions, and an appearance at the Maxwell Award dinners that made the soon-to-be 2nd year coach even more of a mystery. At 7:15 AM, in Orlando, Kelly was forced to meet with the collective media for the first time since the close of his inaugural season. Though the Eagles have become, across-the-board, one of the most intriguing franchises in the NFL, everyone was only concerned about one thing: the status of wideout DeSean Jackson and whether he has a future within the organization.
Deciphering through the media ‘reports’, social media passive-aggressiveness, and the utter silence by the Eagles upper management has made trying to make sense of the Jackson saga particularly unnerving. Even though Kelly was assembled to cover any and all offseason topics as they pertained to his team, the onslaught of questions involving the enigmatic receiver dominated the conversation. Quick-witted as always, Chip Kelly stood in the face of a militia of reporters and provided each one with a thought-out, concise answer. That being said, for having every opportunity to put a cap on any conversation concerning the notion that the team could part ways with Jackson, Kelly never gave the sort of ‘slam dunk’ ringing endorsement that could put any fan at ease that the fiasco would be coming to a definitive end any time soon.
Sifting through what seemed like an 80/20 clip of questions about DeSean vs. anything else about the team, one would have to say that Kelly does think that Jackson is a very good player and he seems to have a strong relationship with him. Kelly praised Jackson’s work ethic:
Asked about DeSean’s work ethic, Chip said DeSean was as good as anyone in that area.
— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) March 26, 2014
his ability to excel within his desired framework:
Kelly said that DeSean Jackson was “outstanding” with everything that was asked of him last year.
— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) March 26, 2014
and confirmed that he had a conversation to clear the air with him:
Asked why he chose to call DeSean Jackson 2 days before his interview, Chip Kelly said he felt it was necessary to ease WR’s concerns.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) March 26, 2014
But when it was all said and done, Kelly could have saved himself all the trouble that this story has brought along and chose not to. Instead, as many of the collective Eagles beat team noted, Kelly delivered a ‘money quote’ that should tell fans all they need to know about where Jackson fits within the eyes of the organization.
Chip asked if he wants DeSean on team. “I like DeSean….but we are gonna do what’s best for the team.”
— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) March 26, 2014
Having listened to a snippet of what was roughly an hour-long session with the media, Chip Kelly has a plan and the organization appears to be fully committed to it. The way the Eagles will look under Kelly will be predicated on what the second-year coach envisions and, if there is a piece that does not fit perfectly, the organization will at least entertain the notion of parting ways with that piece.
‘Traditional thinking’ is something that fans of the Eagles, at least more often than not, were going to have to suspend when it came to trying to figure out Kelly’s approach to coaching at this level. With the types of rumors and stories that are surrounding the team this offseason, the new head coach along with the Eagles brain trust is putting ramping up that challenge in a big way. Though the two sides, the Eagles and Jackson, do not appear to be at each other’s throats the way it was depicted leading up to this week’s meetings, there is still substantial doubt as to whether Jackson will be here at the start of the season. Along with Evan Mathis, reportedly, Jackson is a notable member of the team who suddenly could play elsewhere next season. Knowing when to cut ties with players in the NFL is one of the most difficult things that ultimately contributes to prolonged success. Mathis and DeSean are among the two most impactful players in the Eagles locker room, but it is possible that Kelly sees them as expendable for their desired prices. For how much toxicity surrounded the clubhouse last offseason, the negotiations with some of the Eagles have created an entirely different narrative for this offseason. Decisions like these have the potential to define an organization and the regime that makes them. Owner Jeffrey Lurie was adamant at the meetings that Kelly and Howie Roseman have a plan in place for the long-term. The way Kelly talked about Jackson would only reinforce that statement. Let’s just hope it’s the right plan.