Jeffrey Lurie’s impressions of DeSean Jackson’s on-field performance in 2013 seems to be different than that of most other observers.
Speaking at the Eagles’ 18th annual playground build at Prince Hall Elementary School in North Philadelphia, the team’s owner addressed Jackson’s release for the first time.
"Really it was a football decision," Lurie said. "Chip [Kelly] and his people were incredibly clear that for us to get better, we needed to take a step back and reconfigure the wide receiver position. Common to a lot of really smart coaches, he knows exactly what he wants at every position. And for Chip on offense, it just wasn’t a good fit. It just was not a good fit for what he asks for wide receivers to do. He can explain that to you, but it just was not a fit. He was so clear that we had to get better."
Jackson finished last year with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He was one of three players in the NFL to catch 80+ balls, average at least 16.0 yards per reception and score nine-plus times. The others were Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon.
Pressed to explain how he could say Jackson didn't fit, given the numbers, Lurie said: "He wants us to be a better offense. And I know you can say statistically that, ‘Gee, you lose DeSean. How can you be a better offense?’ If you add Nick Foles last year and say how can you be a better offense, it was a record-setting offense. So I think with Chip, I just give him the benefit of the doubt. And he knows what he wants. And he knows how to get there. And I really believe that it’s an organization that absolutely supports the direction we’re going. And that’s the best way to be, everyone in it together. I think Chip’s always gonna not just base things on statistics, but how you’re gonna perform and how you’re gonna perform in the playoffs and where do you get to your ultimate goal? What’s the best chance?
"It wasn’t based on one player. It’s how can we make the offense overall better. And I think that there’s so many opportunities to accomplish what Chip wants to accomplish that he’s... extremely excited about where we’re headed."
One thing was clear from Lurie: This was Kelly's call. The Eagles' owner also revealed that the decision to part ways with Jackson was made pretty much as soon as the season was over.
"Usually at the end of every season… Chip’s no different, the coach will always discuss chemistry of the team, how he wants to improve it, what he wants for next year, what he wants to maximize his offense, his defense, his special teams," Lurie said. "And it became clear at the end of the year he wanted to certainly go at the wide receiver position differently. Once that decision was made, it was just a matter of whether we were gonna be able to make any kind of trade. And when it was obvious that there were gonna be no trade offers, the fair thing to the player was to release him. But in today’s NFL, it’s not surprising that that would happen. With double-digit contracts, you don’t see players getting traded these days. You see them getting released."
Asked about whether he was concerned about any of Jackson's off-the-field decisions, Lurie said: "We’re always concerned with everybody. It’s about the whole health of the individual player. And it’s always a concern for everybody, not just DeSean. You value character. You value preparedness. You value everything that goes into trying to create champions. You value that with every player, but no, not specifically."