No one may be more ahead of the curve when it comes to play innovation and the physical science of athletes than Chip Kelly. Since he has arrived in the league the former University of Oregon coach has shaken things up to say the least much like he did in the world of college football.
Despite making head scratching moves this off-season there are many analysts, fellow coaches, players, and fans that believe in Kelly and his methods.
Of course not everyone shares those same sentiments particularly LeSean “Shady” McCoy, Kelly’s former All-Pro running back who he shipped to Buffalo in March. Last week McCoy made it a point to mention that Kelly got rid of “all the good black players”.
Does McCoy have a point? Is there something more to why Kelly got rid of him and guys like DeSean Jackson who were elite performers? Or is this just McCoy’s bitterness talking? Perhaps animosity as he sees Kelly replacing him as the new face of the franchise?
I will answer the latter first and say there is no doubt that McCoy is upset about leaving Philadelphia. He played his whole football career in the state of Pennsylvania and he was active in the local community. That being said, I do not think his comments should be easily dismissed as just someone with a bone to pick. There is something very transparent going on in Philadelphia despite Kelly, a very private person to begin with, not wanting to talk about it. Keep in mind this is the same guy that gave Riley Cooper an extension after his N-word video went viral.
Kelly wants his type of guys on this roster and that is one of the reasons he is purging Andy Reid’s players. He also has gotten rid of some big contracts to free up cap room and yes he did bring in a lot of new black players.
So what is the issue? Let’s go back to Kelly bringing in his type of guys. There is nothing wrong with acquiring personnel that are great locker room guys, who maintain a high level of character on and off the field, that don’t command a lot of attention, and play good sound fundamental football. Yes you don’t need a team full of players who are flashy, household name superstars that may or may not bring extra or unwanted attention away from the team’s facilities. But you do need some of those guys.
The great thing about football is that it diffuses culture. A black kid from the projects in Detroit can catch a pass from a white farm boy that originates from Iowa. Two totally different walks of life who likely would have never crossed paths if it weren’t for football. The same goes for fans. In the stands the only colors you are judged by are the ones you wear to support your team.
The NFC East’s history is a perfect example of coaches who took a chance with players who displayed unorthodox styles or had a rough upbringing and turned it into a success story. Take Bill Parcells, who had Lawrence Taylor, a trainwreck away from football, but he was able to use LT’s wreckless behavior to his advantage on the field, making him arguably the greatest defensive player to ever step on the gridiron. Currently we see Parcells’ protege, Bill Belichick using this same method of player psychology giving him the ability to bring in NFL stars with baggage and in most cases it has paid big dividends. How about Jimmy Johnson? When he was at the University of Miami he took a lot of underprivileged youths whose only chance of getting off the streets was football. Under his tutelage a number of these young men became quality players at the next level. When Johnson got to that next level he continued to embrace these talented individuals enabling him to taste glory. Even though Buddy Ryan never got the Eagles to a championship he did build some of the best defenses in NFL history and was one of only two coaches who was playing a black quarterback at the time. This controversial, stocky white-haired man from Oklahoma was loved by most of his team, especially his black players, some of which who followed him to Arizona when he coached the Cardinals. 10 years after Buddy left Philly they hired another coach and to call him stocky would be an understatement. Andy Reid, a west coast BYU alum and practicing Mormon, also drafted a black kid from Chicago named Donovan McNabb to be the leader of his franchise. Although he never won the big one Reid had the Eagles in the conversation almost every year. Like Ryan, he wasn’t afraid to take chances with personnel and his players adored him.
We can even go back to guys like Tom Landry and Joe Gibbs. Devout Christian, mild-mannered white men who might not have had a close bond with the guys they coached, however if one of their players was having a problem they would be the first to get them some help.
Kelly has a particular issue accepting players who may still have connections to their troubled roots. He strongly prefers a reserved, businesslike focus from his guys and has less tolerance for fame and flair. Most of these players in question are black. Does this mean Kelly is racist? It would be unfair to put that label on Kelly considering this current society is still trying to define what racism is in today’s world. Is it prejudice against skin color? Culture and religion? The dialect in which we speak? The clothes we wear? How we vote? Our income and family situations? The way we carry ourselves? No one really knows because nobody discusses it. Sure we point and blame and scream and call people out, but we never talk about it in a civil manner. People often criticize ESPN’s First Take, but at least they have the guts to bring up this controversial topic without slandering each other in the process.
As I alluded to earlier Kelly won’t address this. By doing so he could squash this notion and make a positive statement that could resonate with his team, the rest of the league, and maybe even beyond that. Why doesn’t he?
Football is a game of emotions. It is a game of expression. You can come up with all the formations in the world, but it can’t account for the intangibles that these athletes posses needed to take a team over the top.
I’m not saying Kelly can’t evolve on this matter, but he better do it quickly. His radical moves have built very lofty expectations in Philadelphia. Last year his team had a 9-3 record only to finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs. Is Kelly the type of coach a team can rally around in the face of adversity? We have yet to see it.
Kelly will eventually come to the realization that he will have to take a risk on a player that doesn’t fit his current mold in order to win a Super Bowl. The real question is when he finally does will it be too late?