ANGELO CATALDI: Eagles’ silence is the real story with DeSean Jackson
After 10 days of endless talk, the real story of DeSean Jackson’s sudden departure from Philadelphia is what is not being said. So far, no Eagles player – not one – has offered a single word of public support for him, and coach Chip Kelly has gone into hiding.
Why the silence from the people who know Jackson the best? Well, it’s like Mom told you many years ago: If you have nothing good to say, say nothing. Those who know Jackson have nothing good to say.
What has emerged from the loud public conversation is an ugly picture of a player whose talents on the field were dwarfed by his selfishness off it. It is no coincidence that the only people lamenting Jackson’s departure are the fans, who didn’t have to endure his childish behavior behind the scenes.
Jackson was an outcast in the locker room, and a major problem for the coaches. The accounts of insubordination, including tantrums directed at teammates and Kelly, have the ring of truth, as does the allegation that he was more concerned about his image than his team.
Even when he was supposed to be on his best behavior in the days just before and after he signed with Washington, Jackson came across as a grandstanding phony, waving off fair questions and lapsing into tired clichés until his big ESPN tell-all session last Friday – a laughable, woe-is-me account that ignored most of the pertinent questions.
For example, if Jackson was such a positive influence, why didn’t his former coaches – Andy Reid in Kansas City and Marty Mornhinweg in New York – make any effort to sign him? Why did he visit no other team before signing with the Redskins? Were there any other clubs bidding for him?
With so many enticing sub-plots to the Jackson story – the gang ties, the mysterious burglary, his affiliation with rap artists – it has been easy to ignore the simple truth that Jackson’s negative behavior was deemed more significant than 82 catches and 1,332 yards.
Let those football numbers sink in for a second. He had career highs in catches and yards, scored nine touchdowns, was a major threat on punt returns – and was worth absolutely nothing on the trade market.
When Jackson was released, everyone in Philadelphia was buzzing over the “smoking gun,” the juicy story that would emerge to explain this astounding decision. The truth is, the smoking gun has been right in front of us all along. It is Jeremy Maclin, a partner at the wide-receiver position for five years, the biggest benefactor of Jackson’s intimidating presence on the offense.
Maclin was asked the night before Jackson was cut for a response to all the rumors surrounding his teammate. The veteran receiver could not form a sentence. He stumbled and stammered and basically said nothing. Every one of his teammates have followed suit since the release. Chip Kelly has denied repeated requests for a comment.
And that’s the final twist in this DeSean Jackson saga. After so much speculation, so much conversation, the real story is the silence.
Papelbon the only person who doesn’t realize he’s done
All that remains of Jonathan Papelbon’s once-intimidating array of unique qualities is his ornery personality. Gone are his blistering 97-mile-per-hour fastball, his knee-buckling splitter and his knack for saving close games with a sneer. In other words, Papelbon is the only person left in baseball who doesn’t realize he’s done.
Papelbon’s latest misadventure unfolded last Wednesday, when he melted down both on the mound and in the clubhouse while blowing a save in Texas. First, he allowed eight of nine batters to reach base in turning a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 loss, and then he questioned new manager Ryne Sandberg’s strategy on the decisive play.
When Sandberg pulled the infield in with runners at the corners and one out in a 3-2 game, he was making a statement about his declining closer. The manager was saying he had no faith that Papelbon could get a strikeout when the team needed it the most. He was saying Papelbon is finished as an elite ninth-inning pitcher.
Now comes the tough part. Since Papelbon insists he cannot pitch as effectively in non-save situations, there is really no logic to having a $13-million-a-year set-up man with no fastball and a bad attitude. In fact, it shouldn’t be long now before there’s no good reason to keep him on the team at all.
Ruben Amaro Jr. has made some monumental mistakes in his six years as GM, and Papelbon’s historic $51-million contract now stands as his biggest gaffe. How long will it take for Amaro to cut his losses, write a massive check, and send Papelbon on his way?
Of course – given his own tenuous status – if Amaro waits much longer, it might not be his decision to make.
Moyer makes viewers long for the days of Wheeler, Sarge
Jamie Moyer was a cerebral, pensive control pitcher during his 24-year career in the big leagues, so it should come as no surprise that he is not exactly electrifying the broadcast booth in his first days as the Phillies’ new color commentator. In fact, he is doing the impossible right now. He is making people miss Chris Wheeler.
It is no fault of Moyer that he finds himself in this ridiculous situation, a rookie promoted to the big leagues with absolutely no experience behind a microphone. Comcast made the move after ending Wheeler’s 37-year career as the ultimate Phillies apologist. Why the broadcast giant chose Moyer over a far more enthralling and experienced option like Mitch Williams is unimaginable.
But it is not really surprising. For as long as sports has been broadcast, the hiring of announcers has always been a curious exercise. More times than not, the job goes to a favored son, a friend, rather than the best listen. Even though that voice is a conduit between the team and the fans, great color commentators like Richie Ashburn or current radio analyst Larry Anderson are more a product of luck than design.
In a city like Philadelphia, which relishes humor and candor, Moyer will never ascend to the level of Ashburn or Anderson. Sadly, he will probably not become as interesting as the annoying but charming Gary Matthews, who also lost his job in the off-season purge. Moyer is the one thing you cannot be in our city – boring.
The Jamie Moyer experiment has begun. Have the Red Bull handy.
- Two years ago, many of us were wondering if Chase Utley would ever look like Chase Utley again. Well, despite a chronic knee condition and the usual issues associated with being 35, he appears to be back in his prime, playing the game the right way. Bravo.
- The dumbest story in Philadelphia sports right now is the new, improved throwing arm of Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere. The team wants you to believe all it took was a change in technique, and Revere’s noodle arm is not bad at all. Sorry. Until he guns a runner down at home, I’m not buying it.
- As the Flyers endure another late-season tailspin, is it too soon to ask how many times we have to watch this same tired movie? There will be no happy endings for our hockey team until chairman Ed Snider retires. So retire, Ed. Please.
- When the Milwaukee Brewer fans gave certified cheater and liar Ryan Braun a prolonged standing ovation last week, they proved once again that the Midwest is home of the stupid. The boos he gets here in Philadelphia today will be exactly what he deserves.
- Bill Belichek watched tape of Patrick Chung butchering the safety position for the Eagles last year and saw something we didn’t, because the New England coach brought him back to the Patriots last week. After that awful season, Chung got another job. What a country.