Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Race-based criticism of Kelly is baseless

Eagles coach Chip Kelly
PHILADELPHIA - Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Chip Kelly is a polarizing presence in professional football with a style that is often described as innovative by supporters and overrated by critics. The camp you decide to place your own lawn chair is inconsequential, but the one thing we should all be able to agree upon is that there is absolutely no evidence that paints Kelly as a racist.

In today's hyper-partisan environment, though, the Philadelphia Eagles coach has been depicted that way by some high-profile detractors, most notably ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith and one of Chip's spurned exes, running back LeSean McCoy.

Smith first planted the seed on "First Take" back in March with a 90-second rant that made us all a little less lucid for listening.

"Chip Kelly makes decisions over the last couple of years that, dare I say, leave a few brothers feeling uncomfortable," Smith began. "I think that's fair to say. We're sitting here looking at some of the decisions that Chip Kelly makes and I'm like what is up -- what's up with that? It's like you gotta be his kinda guy, you know? And when Riley Cooper's your kind of guy?

"I'm saying, let's get beyond the system though, the operative word is culture. The culture is what resonates with me more profoundly because I'm looking at Chip Kelly and I'm like, really?

"Now you gotta remember, Where did I work for 16 years? I mean, this is Philadelphia. I'm always in Philly, and I'm telling you right now you got people walking the streets and -- the hell with it -- you got brothers walking the streets going like, 'What's up with Chip? I don't understand this.'

"Now I'm not saying I know, I'm just gonna say that it does strike me as a tad bit odd. I'm gonna repeat this. Gone: LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, ya know, DeSean Jackson. Staying: Riley Cooper. Really? Really?"

McCoy, who was traded to Buffalo for Kiko Alonso, a linebacker of Cuban and Columbian descent, earlier this offseason, doubles down on that veiled accusation in an upcoming "ESPN The Magazine" interview.

"The relationship (with Kelly) was never really great," McCoy told the magazine. "I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that's the way he runs his team. He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That's the truth. There's a reason. It's hard to explain with him. But there's a reason he got rid of all the black players -- the good ones -- like that."

"Oh, man. People have heard it," McCoy continued. "I mean -- Stephen A. Smith has talked about it. Other players have talked about it. But that's one of the things where you don't even care no more. I'm on a new team, ready to play. So it's nothing to do with Chip. I have no hatred toward him, nothing to say negative about him. When he got (to Philadelphia), I didn't know what to expect. When he let DeSean go last year, I was like, 'C'mon. DeSean Jackson?' So it is what it is."

Without context, that kind of spin admittedly makes Kelly look like David Duke.

But, how about adding a frame of reference?

Every player's story is different in the NFL.

In the case of Jackson, Kelly got rid of a prima donna who just happens to be black. With McCoy, he dumped a player with a giant salary-cap number whose style didn't fit the coach's vaunted scheme. And in Jeremy Maclin, Kelly was simply outbid for a player he actually wanted to keep.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room, Cooper. It would have been very easy for Kelly to walk away from a pedestrian player who embarrassed himself and the organization by uttering the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert in 2013. Yet Kelly kept Cooper and continues to do so, the one fact that all the
race-baiters cling to when trying to label the coach.

Forget that the four receivers Kelly has brought on since first disposing of Jackson -- Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and now Miles Austin and Nelson Agholor -- are all African-American. The two running backs brought in to replace Shady? You guessed it, black (DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews). And five of six
players Kelly selected in his first stand-alone draft were African-Americans.

At the quarterback position, Kelly walked away from the Opie-like Nick Foles in an effort to land a Pacific-Islander, Marcus Mariota, or stand pat with his plan B, Sam Bradford, who is part Cherokee Indian, and Mark Sanchez, a Mexican-American.

If Kelly really is a racist, he's a terrible one.

The truth is Cooper has one NFL trait that Kelly values greatly. He's a 6-foot-3, 222-pound, monster-sized receiver who blocks, a necessity in a read-option offense.

Like it or not the only real narrative here is that Chip Kelly is football 24-7. He's not trying or even thinking about improving race relations in this country. He is only attempting to make the Philadelphia Eagles a championship contender and while many (including yours truly) believe he's made some very
poor personnel decisions, none of them have been based on the color of people's skin.

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