McMullen: Context Missing in Ajayi Flap
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — The "Jay Train" was one of the few Eagles who wasn't in a celebratory mood after the team's latest blowout win on Sunday over the Chicago Bears.
Upset over a fumble after finally breaking out with a 30-yard gallop near the goal line early in the fourth quarter, Jay Ajayi wasn't exactly enjoying his time with the media after the game. The Eagles' newest running back took his medicine, however, albeit with curt and often short responses.
And one was taken out of context by Hall of Fame writer and now NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst Ray Didinger.
“My role is to run the plays that the coaches call," Ajayi said deep into a conversation with a few reporters, one that touched a nerve from the start when Ajayi was asked about the fumble, a miscue that was ultimately masked by the hustle of Nelson Agholor and turned into a touchdown.
"That’s what I’ve been doing, I’m just running the play that the coaches call."
In a studio across the street from Lincoln Financial Field and ever mindful of the hit job Adam Gase performed on Ajayi as he left South Florida for Philadelphia, Didinger read into the body language and assumed Ajayi was upset about his role.
A bell cow in Miami, Ajayi is part of a committee with the 10-1 Eagles, along with LeGarrette Blount and undrafted rookie Corey Clement.
Ajayi didn't take kindly to the mini-controversy, taking to Twitter with this:
On Monday, Doug Pederson was asked about Ajayi and how he's feeling.
"He's fine," the coach insisted. "He's so excited to be here, obviously. He's on a winning football team. ... He was frustrated from the standpoint that he had a chance to score and lost the ball."
Ajayi was on the field for 22 offensive snaps against Chicago and only touched in five times. It was easily Ajayi's worst performance since arriving in Philadelphia as his first four carries netted minus-4 yards and he also drooped a pass. One he finally broke one, Ajayi was stripped at the end as the ball squirted into the end zone where Agholor was 'Johnny on the spot.
Ajayi was greeted by reporters with a question about perhaps trying to do to much and from there shut down into cliches that offered no real insight.
The question that sparked things was if Ajayi was OK with the work he has been getting but by that point, the young running back had already stopped offering any substantive thoughts.
Didinger picked up on the tone, however, which was admittedly poor, and said Ajayi should "shut up and tote the ball."
"He's obviously miffed," Didinger claimed. "..."But if he's got an issue with the touches, hey chief, this team was winning before you got here. It's nice to have you here, we're glad to have you in the clubhouse, you're a nice addition, but they were doing pretty good before you got to town."
As a reporter in the scrum, it was obvious that Ajayi was in no way complaining about his role or workload and had Didinger been around for the context he would have had a different take.
Nonetheless, there is a valuable lesson to learn here for Ajayi, who was peddled by Miami because his old coach wasn't exactly enamored with the RB's attitude at times.
Dealing with the media is part of Ajayi's job in good times and bad. Handling the fumble and a poor performance in a more professional manner would have nipped this in the bud before it ever got started.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen