Winning against Tennessee healed a whole lot of wounds from the 2006 season. It provided revenge and it provided vindication. It put Cal in the national spotlight and confirmed Desean Jackson’s Hesiman candidacy.
But, somewhere along the way, and perhaps throughout Desean’s entire tenure at Cal, there were always rumors surrounding Desean. He’s not a team player. He doesn’t work hard enough. He doesn’t listen. All those rumors, in addition to Desean’s diminutive stature, led to a precipitous decline in THA1’s draft stock.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Desean Jackson saga, at least for Cal fans, is the relationship between Desean and Coach Tedford.
Desean was Tedford’s first elite recruit out of Southern California and it came on the heals of what should have been Cal’s first Rose Bowl since Joe Kapp last drank Tequilla. For the most part, when Desean played, he met and exceeded expectations, scoring 20 career touchdowns over three seasons. On the other hand, Cal went 0-3 against USC during his three seasons and his up-and-down junior season left a bad taste in the mouth of everyone associated with Cal football.
However, when Desean announced that he was entering the NFL Draft, he did so via conference call, with Coach Tedford on the line. After Desean announced, Tedford answered a few questions from the media, lauded Desean’s ability and contributions, and told the departing junior that he loved him. What seemed like a somewhat tumultuous relationship suddenly looked healthy.
Behind the scenes however, there was indeed discontent. The Philadelphia Daily News recently talked to Tedford, Desean, and Desean’s father, Bill Jackson. According to Bill Jackson, Tedford believed Desean’s family was too involved in his football career and Tedford still believes that was the case:
“With outside opinions and outside advice always eating at DeSean, he was in a very tough spot,” Tedford said yesterday, when asked about that discussion. “He’s trying to be a team guy, trying to fit in and play his role, but dealing with outside information always eating at him, and not always positive. It ended up putting him in a very difficult position. He’s had to deal with a lot of different people’s opinions being shot at him. That’s where I think he has grown, and will continue to grow, on being his own man, using his own common sense. Being part of the meetings and the offense, he knows better than the outsiders what is going on.”
Hopefully Tedford is right, Desean has grown, but it’s interesting to hear that Andy Reid won’t let Bill Jackson near the Eagles’ facilities.
With regard to work ethic, again, Tedford concurs that it may have been lacking while Desean was at Cal:
“I don’t know that he worked as hard he could have, because he’s a very natural player,” Tedford said. “Now that he’s in the NFL, and he has to compete with guys who are all as good as he is, he’ll figure out he needs to work . . . He got away with doing things on natural ability a lot at this level, that he probably won’t be able to do at that level. I don’t think he’s opposed to it, but he’d probably even admit he can work harder.
“I don’t think DeSean is malicious, or a detriment, in any way, shape or form . . . He’s young . . . I think he will continue to grow, but I think he’s a good-hearted person who wants to do well. I think if he surrounds himself with the right people, who lead him in the right direction, he will definitely want to go in that direction. I have no doubt that DeSean does have the character and the characteristics to be a good person and a great player.”
I think Tedford is right, Desean was not and is not a cancer. Like a lot of elite college players, he could and did get by on his natural talent. And, it isn’t his fault that his family may have involved themselves a bit too much in Desean’s football ventures. While someday I would like to hear what really was going on in the locker room, how the team’s chemistry unraveled, I’m still willing to give Desean the benefit of the doubt.
That said, Tedford looks so much more comfortable these days. Most likely, it’s because even Tedford admits, the team’s chemistry is much better this year. Well, and they can start throwing over the middle again.