LANDOVER, Md. - DeSean Jackson was the first Washington Redskins player to charge off the sideline and into the center of FedEx Field on Saturday night after the game ended, his arms high in the air in celebration, and he was the last one to charge through the tunnel to the team's locker room.
The Redskins had beaten the Eagles, 27-24, leaving Jackson's old team with the slimmest of hopes for the playoffs, handing the Eagles their third straight loss and continuing their incredible December collapse. With his four catches and 126 receiving yards, with his tormenting of cornerback Bradley Fletcher, Jackson knew full well the damage he'd wrought on an organization that didn't want him anymore.
He kept his hands up as he sprinted through that tunnel, high-fiving fans along the way, and when he turned a corner toward the locker room, he smiled and screamed:
"Get the [expletive] Birds out of here!"
As much as anyone, Jackson had held open the door and shoved the Eagles out into the cold, dark night. They had released him in March with virtually no public explanation, no real accounting for why a team would want to part with a wide receiver who had 82 receptions and 1,332 yards for them in 2013 and provided a devastating deep threat to balance the Eagles' running game.
Everyone was left guessing and speculating.
Chip Kelly liked bigger receivers. Kelly wanted a different culture, and Jackson didn't fit. A published report linked Jackson to a Los Angeles gang, and once that story broke not an hour passed before the Eagles announced they had let him go.
For a while, Kelly and the Eagles seemed so astute for making that controversial decision. They won nine of their first 12 games this season, and if Jackson was still a breathtaking player here for the Redskins - he's averaging an NFL-high 20.1 yards per reception, despite mediocre-to-terrible quarterback play - his comeuppance for failing to conform to Kelly's culture would be obvious: He'd have to languish with a franchise that the rest of the league regards as a laughingstock.
Then came Saturday, and Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis showed they'd learned no lessons regarding Fletcher's body of work. They left him alone in single coverage on Jackson for most of the game, and Jackson ate him alive. He ran past Fletcher again and again. Robert Griffin III found him for 51 yards in the first quarter to set up one touchdown and again for 55 yards late in the third quarter to set up another. Finally, in the fourth quarter, Kelly and Davis wised up and benched Fletcher, but by then Jackson had proved his point - that for all of Kelly's insistence that culture beats scheme, sometimes there's nothing that can beat one receiver's breathtaking speed and the stupidity of a stubborn coaching staff.
"They're very naive, and they play how they play," Jackson said. "They [couldn't] care less who's out there or who's there at wide receiver. They're going to play their defense the way they play it.
"That's the Philadelphia Eagles defense. I've been there a lot of years and witnessed a lot of players - wide receivers, tight ends - get off on some huge games on them, and I'm just happy to be on this side and be able to send them home with a loss."
Say this for Jackson: He made no bones about how much this victory meant to him.
He gloated, and he had earned that right. As he walked through the Redskins locker room to the postgame interview room, he passed a cluster of teammates near the exit. He called out, "Crip gang. Crip gang." The players grinned.
The Redskins are 4-11, a three-legged dog of a team that never should have presented a challenge to the Eagles, and somehow that context seemed to make Jackson's triumph Saturday all the more satisfying in his mind.
It wasn't just about beating the Eagles for him. It was about his playing so important a role in so important a loss to them. Accuse Jackson of insufferable arrogance all you want, but remember: It was a pretty arrogant decision by Kelly and the Eagles to release him.
Maybe it pays off in the long run. Maybe, with time and better talent, Kelly will build the Eagles into the caliber of team they never would have been if Jackson had stayed.
But today, Kelly has to be facing a room full of players who might be looking at him with a little more skepticism, after a night when Mark Sanchez could only dink-and-dunk their offense down the field and a player who had once helped them had hurt them so badly.
"I think a lot of them guys miss me," Jackson said. "They tell me that during the game. Still have good relationships with a lot them guys over there, and they constantly tell me how much they miss me and they wish I was still there. But it's a decision they chose to make in the front office. I'm happy to be here in Washington."
After a few minutes, the questions stopped, and he strode down the interview room's center aisle and back to his locker.
DeSean Jackson had more celebrating to do, and after what had to be one of the sweetest nights of his football life, did he have a message for Philadelphia?
"They're going home," he said as he walked away. "Tell them good night. Toodle–oo. Bye-bye."
Big Plays are DeSean's Game
DeSean Jackson certainly got the best of his former Eagles teammates this season. Here are his standout numbers in two games against the Birds:
Avg. per catch: 27.0
Longest: 81-yard TD on Sept. 21; 55- and 51-yarders Saturday.