Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly is heralded as one of the most unique and smart minds in the National Football League. After years of success at the collegiate level, he seemed poised to carry that success into the NFL and be a successful for years to come. But if he’s going to live that out, he’s got something to fix.
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Without hard facts, I’ll never accuse a man of being racist. And I’d like to believe that Kelly isn’t. But there’s clearly some sort of issue in the Philadelphia locker room between the former Oregon coach and his players. DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Brandon Boykin have all voiced direct concerns with Kelly (McCoy going as far as to call his former coach a racist), and have also said there are several players currently on the Eagles roster that take similar issue with the head coach.
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“He can’t relate and that makes him uncomfortable,” Boykin told CSNPhilly.com. “When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field … I felt a lot of guys in that locker room feel the same way. Of course, when you’re in the organization, you’re not going to voice your opinion.”
Who was truly at fault in the cases of Boykin, Jackson and McCoy’s departures remains unclear, but the aftermath of the three moves certainly doesn’t put Kelly in a good light. And with all three players either directly stating or implying to different extents that their former coach took some sort of issue with African American players, that doesn’t bode well for Kelly coaching in a league that is 68-percent African American.
Kelly was fully within his rights to deal Boykin and McCoy. He has full control of his roster, and players without no-trade clauses can’t decide whether they’re traded or not. But he also needs to keep in mind that while players on his roster have to listen to him, future free agents don’t.
The NFL is a tight-knit community. Players talk. If there’s a perception amongst the African American population in the NFL that Kelly is racist or can’t relate to that demographic of players, it’ll make things attracting new talent on the open market difficult for the Eagles in future summers.
The problem clearly hasn’t impacted Philadelphia too much to this point, as it had no trouble signing the likes of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews and Brandon Graham to multi-year contracts. But if this trend continues, and more prominent African American players continue to speak out that there were issues in the locker room, it could lead to Kelly’s time in the NFL being brief. Whether he’s at fault in any way or not, perception often has a habit of becoming reality. Especially if Kelly’s Eagles continue to miss out on the playoffs, players won’t be lining up to play for a guy who seemingly has issues relating to his players.
And if he is racist, that’s a whole different story.
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