Chip Kelly insisted that releasing DeSean Jackson last month was "purely a football decision," and that the timing of the release was based on the inability to find a trade partner. The Eagles coach spoke Monday for the first time since Jackson's release.
"We were going in a different direction at the wide receiver position," Kelly said at the team's 18th annual Playground Build at Prince Hall Elementary School in North Philadelphia. "Has nothing to do with anything that was ever written in a newspaper article or any off-field behavior from him. DeSean was great the year I was with him."
Kelly said that Jackson "came to practice and did everything we asked him to do," and denied any discord between his former wide receiver and him.
"I've never had one issue with DeSean," Kelly said. "I'll say that publicly. He never yelled at me, I never yelled at him on the practice field. I don't know where that came from."
Jackson, 27, is coming off the best season of his career with 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. So it was clear that Jackson could thrive in the Eagles' offense, although Kelly said the team believed they needed a different type of wide receiver. He would not disclose what direction the team is going at wide receiver for competitive purposes.
When asked why Jackson was released less than one hour after an NJ.com report that alleged Jackson has gang connections, Kelly said the timing was based on the team's arrival from the league meetings with a trade offer.
His explanation for the Eagles' public silence has been what he considers a consistent approach to releasing players.
"Did I have a press conference when we released Jason Avant or Patrick Chung? No," Kelly said. "That's just not the way I am. I'm not going to have a press conference when we release players from the organization."
Kelly compared the decision to the ones made in Chicago with Julius Peppers, Tampa Bay with Darrelle Revis, and Dallas with DeMarcus Ware. All three were cut in part because of their burdensome salaries, which is the reason Kelly identified for why the Eagles could not find a trade partner.
But Kelly then said the decision to cut Jackson was not based on Jackson's salary but rather based on "football."
"We know where we're going," Kelly said. "We understand the direction we're going as an offensive team, and we're excited about our future."