Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson(notes) has almost gotten to the point that he is radioactive. That's not good for a pending unrestricted free agent looking to cash in big time during the offseason.
While no one with Jackson's immense talent is ever completely untouchable, five NFL team personnel executives interviewed by Yahoo! Sports said they would have no interest in pursuing him. Two of the executives' opinions were strengthened following Jackson's alarming display Thursday night in which he essentially quit on the Eagles.
"If that was my kid out there, I would have gotten out of the stands, gone on the field and pulled him off myself and said, 'You obviously don't want to be here, so stop hurting your team,' " said an NFL team executive who attended the Eagles' 31-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. "I'm serious, it was embarrassing. I know that [Philadelphia coach] Andy [Reid] is protecting him and saying all that stuff [the] NFL Network showed was wrong, but I don't get it."
Unfortunately, what Jackson is seemingly lacking is that kind of fatherly tough love. Jackson's father, Bill, died of cancer in May 2009. Right now, Jackson is a guy who could use some guidance because it seems that with every passing week, he is costing himself money.
The five executives, who come from four teams, asked not to be identified because talking openly about Jackson and his pending free agency violate league tampering rules. Still, none of them said they would endorse signing him and none had anything positive to say about Jackson other than some version of "he's a game-changing player when he wants to be."
When he wants to be.
Yes, all five executives realize Jackson is going to go somewhere and create problems for the league in terms of X's and O's. Still, all said they'd rather let him be another team's headache.
"There are a couple of scenarios in which you sign him," a second NFC team executive said. "You either have a renegade coach who says, 'I can handle him.' Or you're a team that feels you're really close to winning a championship , that you're only a player or two away. Actually, it's probably both. You have to go in knowing that you're probably going to have to get rid of him in two or three years."
[ Related: Andy Reid defends DeSean Jackson ]
As for coaches, the usual suspects popped up. From Rex Ryan with the New York Jets to Mike Shanahan in Washington to Jon Gruden if he returns to the sideline, there are always coaches who feel they can control a recalcitrant player. That creates enough landing spots. The problem, though, is that Jackson – through his series of issues such as pouting about money, missing a team meeting, complaining about not getting the ball in the middle of the season and now playing a game as if he was some ticked off teenager – has pushed plenty of suitors away.
"You know what tells me the most? That the Eagles haven't seriously tried to re-sign the guy," said another exec from an NFC team. "You know the way they do business. If they think a player is good, they go to him early and do a long-term deal. Even if a player waits, they're willing to pay market value the way they did with [then free agent] Nnamdi [Asomugha], [Michael] Vick and [then free agent Jevon] Kearse. It makes me think that there are a lot of other things we have no idea about with this guy."
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The bottom line is that Jackson is now no more trusted than he was in 2008, when he was drafted No. 49 overall, falling out of the first round despite his tremendous speed and quickness. In fact, one of the executives made a point to bring up Jackson's past because it's largely his present.
"The stuff we heard about him coming out of [the University of California] is that he needed to go away and mature," the executive said.
At this point, leaving the Bay Area hasn't fully helped Jackson grow up.
Union failed Williams, Davis
While Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams(notes) and tight end Fred Davis(notes) aren't going to get much sympathy for their four-game suspensions for violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy, an issue has been raised by people in their camp: The failure of the NFL Players Association to ask for a "reintegration" program practically guaranteed that these players would fail.
According to two sources, Williams failed at least one test for marijuana last season, putting him in the NFL's program for evaluation, treatment and more random testing during the season. He managed to stay clean the rest of the season. During the lockout, he and the rest of the players weren't tested because there were no rules in place between the league and the union.
Then, after the lockout ended and training camp began, Williams and Davis again tested positive. Furthermore, the two continued to test positive after a de facto "grace period" the NFLPA recently negotiated for a group of 11 players who tested positive early in training camp. Williams has at least two positive tests since the season started, the sources said.
The contention by those who represent Williams and Davis is that all players would have been better if there had been an agreement to get them counseling and evaluation immediately after the nearly five-month lockout had ended. The NFLPA never asked for that, as an email from an NFL executive in early November points out.
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"Would have been a good debate to have with the union if they had bothered to ask for a period of reintegration during [collective bargaining] negotiations," the executive wrote. "For some reason they didn't. I assume they don't believe in it."
Again, Williams and Davis are hard guys to get worked up over. But the point of what the NFL is trying to do is help players deal with substance problems so they can lead productive careers. That effort has obviously failed in this case.
More trouble for Suh
I'm not exactly sure what to make of the story that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes) supposedly lied to police about whether anyone was hurt during a Saturday one-car traffic accident in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. At least one of the other passengers said she had to go to a hospital for cuts and bruises and that she asked Suh to call for an ambulance but he refused. Maybe this is an attempt to get money in the long run. Then again, given how badly Suh lied after the stomping incident against Green Bay, which led to his two-game suspension and the very reason he was in Portland rather than being with his team, you have to start wondering more about Suh's leadership skills. Look, stupid things happen on a football field from time to time. Likewise, people get into traffic accidents. But the lying, if in fact Suh didn't tell police the truth, is flatly disturbing and shows little or no ability to learn from mistakes.
1. Green Bay Packers (12-0): If Charles Woodson(notes) misses extended time, there's no telling how bad the defense could become.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Win over Cincy was about as thorough a performance as you could imagine from the Steelers.
3. New England Patriots (9-3): You have to be concerned when the Pats play really bad situational football like they did Sunday.
4. Baltimore Ravens (9-3): Season finale against the Bengals is shaping up as a critical game if Ravens want one of the AFC's top two seeds.
5. San Francisco 49ers (10-2): If you like defense, 49ers are best choice at No. 5. If you prefer offense, you go with New Orleans.
28. Washington Redskins (4-8): OT Trent Williams is headed down the Ricky Williams(notes) path. He'll take coach Mike Shanahan down with him.
29. Minnesota Vikings (2-10): Oh, Christian Ponder(notes), you will learn someday that interceptions on your team's side of the 50 are death.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9): You know it's a bad year for a team when the biggest news of the season involves the NFL finance committee.
31. St. Louis Rams (2-10): If things weren't bad enough, the Rams' final three games are Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-12) : So much for the concept of Indy having both Peyton Manning(notes) and Andrew Luck on the roster.
• As of late Monday, people were still trying to decipher Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's reasoning about his clock management at the end of regulation of Sunday's overtime against the Arizona Cardinals. The bottom line is this: The job of a coach, particularly one who was smart enough to play quarterback and to have gone to Princeton, is to have a plan in situations like that. You're not supposed to be guessing about how to handle strategy. Yes, there are many facets to being a coach, but understanding situational football is a fundamental issue. Not being prepared in that situation is brutal. Of course, Garrett's misadventures led to some darkly humorous musings. An acquaintance from a fantasy league I belong to tried to console owners of teams that had been eliminated from the playoffs with this thought: "It could be worse! You could have a bomb strapped to your chest set to go off and the 2 man bomb squad who's got to save you in 90 seconds is Andy Reid and Jason Garrett."
[ Related: Is this the year Dan Marino's passing record falls? ]
• Four wins in the past five games have gotten some members of the South Florida media to plead that coach Tony Sparano should be spared the firing line. Great Miami Herald columnist Edwin Pope weighed in as such after the 34-14 demolition of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. The problem with that stance: The Dolphins are going to draft a quarterback this April, there is no doubt about that. So do you want to start a marriage between a quarterback and a coach that might last only another season? Or do you want to start fresh between two guys who presumably should have at least three years to work together before you have to make a decision on their futures? As much as Sparano is a likeable guy and still has a chance to be a good head coach in time, keeping him in Miami is not a good way to play the odds on success.
• Along those lines, there has already been speculation about future head coaches in Jacksonville now that Jack Del Rio is gone. Mike Mularkey, Jay Gruden and Jeff Fisher are the names so far. If you're a betting man, look for the next coach to have an offensive background (Atlanta's Mularkey and Cincinnati's Gruden are both offensive coordinators). The Jaguars are going through the same situation with quarterback Blaine Gabbert(notes) that was just described with what Miami might do. The Jaguars desperately need to make sure that Gabbert pans out, so they better start with a head coach who will be completely focused on him.
• If you want a real look at what Jon Gruden is about, read this profile in the New Yorker magazine. It shows Gruden from behind the curtain. The guy who is on air every Monday night is way too fluffy and positive to be the real Gruden, which is what so many of us have been saying for the past two seasons.
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• Having mentioned Del Rio, don't expect him to be coaching next season. His son Luke just finished his junior season as Episcopal High School in Jacksonville and is rated by at least one scouting service as the top high school quarterback in Florida. Luke Del Rio is likely going to be a Division I player after his senior season. Enjoy watching him, Jack.
- Jon Gruden