The Eagles made a big mistake, a $9.4-million blunder that will have major implications on next season and beyond. They declared DeSean Jackson one of the best receivers in the NFL, an honor he has earned neither on the field, nor off it.
An immature, timid malcontent, Jackson was ranked 32nd in catches by wide receivers last season, and 49th the year before. Despite his game-breaking speed, 12 wideouts made as many or more plays of 40-plus yards than he did in 2011. He caught only six of 19 passes in the red zone. For all of this, he is guaranteed the average salary of the top five wide receivers.
If you’re looking for one moment that best sums up 2011, look no further than Jackson pouting on the sideline late in the Seattle game. Of course, Eagles coach Andy Reid covered for Jackson, claiming the blank stare and deep sulk were all a big misunderstanding created by those shoot-from-the-hip broadcasters at the NFL Network. Please. We have eyes.
Here’s the plain and painful truth about DeSean Jackson: He has not been the same player since he absorbed a stunning blow by Dunta Robinson of Atlanta early in the 2010 season. Since that concussion, Jackson has avoided the middle of the field, restricting his effectiveness to the sidelines and the farthest reaches of the defense. If you’ve been watching the games, you already know this.
So why did the normally frugal Eagles splurge on a player who is worth nothing close to what he will receive in 2012? As usual, the Birds simply don’t want to admit a mistake. They exploited Jackson in his first contract, and then refused to rectify the problem after he saved the season with a punt return against the Giants in 2010.
Yes, Jackson had reason to pout last year. Yes, he deserved better than he got from the Eagles’ front office. But those are not good excuses for acting unprofessionally. They are not good reasons for a huge salary increase, either.
The conventional wisdom is the Eagles will trade Jackson. Don’t believe it. No other team is dumb enough to pay him what the Eagles just committed themselves to, and none will be offering him a big new contract as part of a trade. He isn’t worth it. The numbers don’t lie. He may still be an extraordinary talent, but his production is no better than ordinary.
So far, the best argument for franchising Jackson has been that the Eagles couldn’t afford to get nothing in return for such an exciting player. OK, fine. Let’s see how smart that thinking is next season, when the guy shying away from a big catch down the middle — and then pouting on the sideline — collects $9.4 million for his cowardly and childish behavior.
Phillies speaking in riddles
If you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of spring drifting up the coast all the way from Clearwater. The knock of bat against ball, the rhythmic beat of a game of catch and the steady stream of misinformation rolling out of the Phillies’ trainer’s room … all signs of another baseball season approaching.
Mike Schmidt once said only in Philadelphia can you experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day. Well, let me update that famous comment. Only in Philadelphia can you experience the thrill of another baseball season and the agony of never knowing the truth about the health of your favorite players.
Ryan Howard’s ruptured Achilles tendon is the source of the deception. All we know for sure is that Howard had a surgical procedure to clean out an infection. At the moment, he is wearing a boot to immobilize the foot, and he will not resume rehab for at least another week.
Trainer Scott Sheridan keeps saying this isn’t a setback. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. agrees with that. Howard is overweight, he cannot work out, the movement in his left leg is severely restricted, and this is no setback. Yeah, right. And Chase Utley missed 59 games with “general soreness.”
The Phillies have come so far in their relationship with the fans since the paranoid days of Ed Wade and Terry Francona, but there is one last hurdle to clear. They need to be honest with their fans about injuries.
Respect the Stilt
Last Friday was a special day, the 50th anniversary of the greatest single-game accomplishment in sports: Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point performance. I hope the many fans who refuse to recognize Chamberlain as the best ever were paying close attention to the tributes.
Once again, the new ownership of the Sixers did justice to its own history with creative film packages, promotional giveaways and court ceremonies recognizing that amazing night. How amazing, you ask? Well, not only has the 100-point milestone never been challenged in the past half-century, but no two NBA players have ever combined for 100 points in a single game.
My happiest sports memories as a child were watching Chamberlain. He made me a Philadelphia sports fan long before I moved here from Providence, R.I. He was my favorite player then, and he remains so today.
Chamberlain wasn’t only better than Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, or the current flavor of the month, he was far, far better.
If you get a moment while the memory of Wilt’s 100-point masterpiece is still fresh, take a look in the NBA record books. Isn’t it time in Philadelphia — his birthplace — that we ended this ridiculous debate?
– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
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