There were two indications that something was amiss following the Eagles' 31-26 loss to the Bears in Chicago, other than the disappointment of losing. One was a short-tempered Andy Reid in his postgame press conference. The other was a clearly despondent DeSean Jackson, who sat at his locker for at least 15 minutes, his head buried in his hands, as teammates came along one by one to console him. First, it was Michael Vick, then LeSean McCoy and finally Jeremy Maclin. Now we know why. Multiple sources say Jackson was called out by Reid in the coach's postgame address in the locker room for lollygagging during pregame preparations and perhaps for Jackson's inability to make a tough catch for what might have been a touchdown during the game.
The PFW Spin
Player-coach arguments, especially ones as visible as this one reportedly was, can divide a team. They can pit players against a coach, even one as swathed and accomplished as Reid, and turn locker rooms inside out. And you can understand Jackson's frustration in a season in which he wanted to make a major statement and earn the long-term contract extension he has been pining for more than a year now.
As teams have chosen to bracket cover Jackson, or in the case of the Bears, make sure safety help was always over the top, he has been taken out of the past two games somewhat. Even in the "Monday Night Football" blowout three weeks ago against the Redskins, Jackson was awfully quiet after his opening-play, 88-yard TD pass in a game in which nearly every Eagles offensive player flourished.
But the feeling here is that this is a minor speed bump that the Eagles will find a way to get past. And likely very quickly. Vick, who has taken on an increased leadership role, perhaps more than anyone could have expected this season, is not going to let any schism happen. He spoke Sunday in very measured tones about Jackson's frustration.
"We'll get him going again," Vick said. "He just can't get frustrated. He has to understand that there are professionals on the other side of the ball, too. And we have some pretty good coaches, some damn good coaches, and we're going to make it work."
Perhaps the best news for the Eagles is that they play Thursday, and the Texans haven't slowed down a capable, functioning offense all season. (Let's keep in mind that Titans rookie QB Rusty Smith clearly wasn't ready to play Sunday.) The Jackson talk likely will linger a day or two, but the Eagles already are headlong into their preparations for Thursday's game and will attempt to put this past them in short order.
They likely will. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg spoke openly after the game about the team's red-zone issues and about ways to get Jackson more involved. Expect the team's first 15 scripted plays to include at least three quality looks to get the ball into Jackson's hands.
And Reid likely knows that he has to address Jackson privately and give the player a confidence boost. Although Reid's game-management skills might be open to questioning following his decision to kick a field goal down 15 points Sunday with 4:47 remaining, his ability to coach his players, massage egos and handle locker rooms almost never has been an issue, outside of Terrell Owens. This is not an Owens-esque situation, and though the excitable Jackson has shown signs of immaturity during the early part of his career, he never has been known as a clubhouse cancer.
Expect the Eagles to move past this quickly in a short week and find ways to get Jackson more involved, even as defenses set out to take him away.