Today, in America, we have become more and more aware of racism and how it manifests itself in all walks of life. From the police, to the news, to the entertainment business, prejudice rears its ugly head and the public, as well as those afflicted, are tasked with fighting it.
In an Eagles context, serious implications have been made in regards to how Chip Kelly views African American players. Tra Thomas started the conversation, LeSean McCoy added fuel to the fire, and most recently newly traded cornerback Brandon Boykin said that Kelly was uncomfortable with "grown men of our culture." Obviously, the idea of anyone being prejudice is off-putting, and in the context of the diverse NFL community, it is disturbing, but it is important to investigate beyond these claims before anyone can jump to the conclusion that Chip Kelly is racist. Frankly, it does not take much digging to discover what is really at work.
Looking at the big moves Chip Kelly has made as Eagles head coach, such as cutting DeSean Jackson, trading LeSean McCoy, and most recently trading Brandon Boykin, one could assume Kelly might take issue with outspoken African American players. McCoy and Jackson are famously active off the field, while Boykin has been viewed as a big voice in the locker room. The truth is, these three players' cases are all very different from one another. Jackson was a huge headache on/off the field and in the locker room. No matter how dynamic of a player he is (or was here), he did not fit the "culture" that Kelly preaches.
Similarly, McCoy was taking issue with the coaching staff as they reduced his snaps this past season due to his drop off in play. That, combined with his lofty salary, made the staff view him to be expendable. Thus, he was traded for Kiko Alonso and replaced in free agency by DeMarco Murray, the reigning rushing champion, and Ryan Mathews, a former first round pick. McCoy was just too replaceable of a player to be worth the headache he was causing. As for Jackson, his 2013 production was bested by Jeremy Maclin. These moves were calculated and the players replaceable.
What about Brandon Boykin? He had been one of the best nickel corners in the league since he stepped onto the field here, he is a well regarded player in the locker room, and he has done nothing but good things for the Philadelphia community. The answer is as simple as it is frustrating: he's too short. The Eagles have the tallest team in the NFL. Chip Kelly stressed that "big people beat up little people" from day one and the team has added four defensive backs this season that all measure over 5-11. It does not matter how good Boykin is, he was not going to see the field on the outside and he may have seen less snaps altogether. It would be the same thing in Seattle or Green Bay. Defenses have strict prototypes and if you do not fit that profile, you do not play. Boykin would have walked after this season, and the team saw the potential of a fourth round pick being better than whatever would have come as a compensatory pick. They have been trying to trade Boykin for a while, but the price/situation was finally right for him to be moved. People want to over complicate things, but the deal came down to value and scheme.
There is obviously more nuance to this conversation, though, and that comes from the accusations. The general lack of comfortability that Boykin and McCoy spoke to raises serious concerns, but it could likely just be a failure of player-coach communication. One common thread with players who are getting ousted is that they are all old Andy Reid players. Chip is trying to build a roster filled with his hand selected players rather than the ones that he got when he took over as head coach. He is creating a roster filled with players who he knows will buy into his philosophy. He is a former college coach, and naturally, a control freak. That is why he has drafting duties now and was essentially given reigns as the GM of the team. Power. He wants his guys and it should not surprise people that he is getting rid of a lot of the players he inherited, because it is likely they are not fully buying in.
Obviously, there are some Reid players who have fully bought in. Jason Peters and DeMeco Ryans are two of the most respected leaders in the locker room and, to different extents, are good players. Both received extensions under Kelly to ensure their leadership staying in Philadelphia. They are Kelly's guys, part of a circle for a man who really only knows football.
I do not want to completely belittle the claims of Brandon Boykin or LeSean McCoy because someone can be made to feel uncomfortable without that being anywhere close to the intention of the person causing the discomfort. Racism is a serious issue in this country and something we all need to be concerned with. Frankly, if I was not concerned, I would not be writing something like this. In the end, it just comes down to Kelly being a control freak who wants his guys, his scheme and can only relate on a level of football. It is important to find and uproot racism in all of its manifestations, but I think people are looking in the wrong place.