Within the last year, Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has unloaded some of his most talented players.
He released wide receiver DeSean Jackson over alleged gang ties last March, before trading star running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills last week, and wideout Jeremy Maclin will reportedly sign with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent Tuesday. Jackson was coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2013 and both McCoy and Maclin were Pro Bowlers last season, so what gives with the roster moves?
That's what Stephen A. Smith wants to know.
The outspoken ESPN personality questioned Kelly on First Take on Monday, implying racism as a possible reason for why the coach has done away with so much offensive firepower, all of whom are African-American.
“Chip Kelly makes decisions over the last couple of years that, dare I say, leave a few brothers feeling uncomfortable,” Smith said on the television show, as reported by ProFootballTalk. “I think that’s fair to say. I mean, 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? I mean, it’s like you’ve got to be his kind of guy, you know? And I’m like, well, Riley Cooper's your kind of guy?”
Smith's reference to Cooper, the Eagles' other wideout, revolves around Cooper using the N-word during a country-music concert back in 2013. Nevertheless, despite not producing as much as Jackson nor Maclin, Cooper has kept his spot on the Eagles' roster.
“Let’s get beyond the system, the operative word is ‘culture,'” Smith added. “The culture is what resonates with me more profoundly because I’m looking at a Chip Kelly and I’m like, 'Really?' Now, you’ve got to remember, where did I work for 16 years? I mean, this is Philadelphia. You understand what I’m saying? I’m always in Philly, and I’m telling you right now you’ve got people walking the streets and, hell with it, you’ve got brothers walking the streets going, like, ‘What’s up with Chip? I don’t understand this. I really don’t understand what you’re doing.’ Now I’m not saying I know, I’m just saying that it does strike me as a tad bit odd. I’m going to repeat this. Gone: LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, you know, DeSean Jackson. Staying: Riley Cooper. Really? Really? OK.”
While Kelly seems to be focused on proving that it's not the players, but his system that will make the Eagles a success, there's no denying the talent he has lost. McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards (third-most in the NFL last season) and five touchdowns, while Maclin was amongst the league leaders for wide receivers, racking up 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. Not easy to replace.
That being said, running back Frank Gore and defensive back Byron Maxwell, who are both Black, will reportedly sign with the Eagles on Tuesday, when the NFL's free-agency period officially begins.
Are Kelly's roster moves motivated by race the way Smith is implying or are they simply football transactions?
BET Sports News - Get the latest news and information about African-Americans in sports including weekly recaps, celebrity news and photos of your favorite Black athletes. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photos from Left: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Paley Center for Media, Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)