Chip Kelly can't really win here, but something tells me the second-year Philadelphia Eagles coach doesn't care about the court of public opinion.
Speaking to the media Monday for the first time since the team made the controversial decision to release Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Kelly insisted over and over that said decision was made for "purely football reasons."
Chip Kelly must have said 15 times in a 5-minute interview that DeSean was released for "purely football reasons." Got upset at questioning.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) April 28, 2014
That despite multiple reports that Jackson and Kelly didn't mesh in the Philadelphia locker room, including this one from CBS Philly:
But what a number of sources close to and around the team, including current and former players, as well as additional sources within the Eagles revealed was that Jackson was not very well liked by his teammates, was blatantly insubordinate, with temper tantrums cussing out Kelly several times in front of the team, pushed the NFL rookie coach the way 'a child would test boundaries,' and was more concerned with his rap label than he was about winning football games.
It also seemed as if Jackson never really embraced Kelly’s sports science system. Whereas everyone else appeared to buy into what Kelly was preaching, Jackson at times wasn’t in lockstep with the group. The two always seemed to be at odds with each other.
And then there was this now-infamous report from NJ.com that detailed potential gang ties, shady connections and a 2010 arrest. Said report was published hours before Jackson's release was made official, which is one hell of a coincidence.
This is why Kelly can't win in terms of selling Jackson's release to the media and fans. If indeed it was strictly a football move, the Eagles are insane for deciding that they're better off without a 27-year-old playmaker coming off an 82-catch, 1,332-yard, nine-touchdown season—his best yet as a pro.
And because he was released after no trade partners could be found for a player who was accumulating baggage by the day, the Eagles got absolutely nothing in return for their top receiver.
What kind of football decision is that?
Of course, by admitting that Jackson's release had anything to do with his character, Kelly knows he'd risk opening a can of worms.
Do you believe that DeSean Jackson's release was purely for football reasons?
Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of law and labor policy, has already stated that the league is "comfortable" with the idea that this was a football decision, according to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
So it's simply smart for the Eagles to stick to that story now, especially considering that NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told ESPN Radio earlier this month that the union would examine the circumstances of Jackson's release.
Now, does a football decision encompass salary matters? If so, you might be able to buy in here. After all, Jackson was slated to make $10.7 million in 2014, and the Eagles are already giving Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper a combined $9.7 million a year. Only the Miami Dolphins had more 2014 money going to wide receivers.
But Philly was still in superb shape in terms of cap space, now and going forward. Almost every key player is under contract for at least the next two years, and it has over $20 million in its back pocket at the moment, according to OvertheCap.com.
It's hard to believe this was strictly a financial decision, and it's impossible to believe it was a football decision. But if indeed the Eagles are lying to us, it's hard to blame them. They're covering their own asses and preventing a toxic story from growing more legs.