Over the past week, the Philadelphia Eagles have made a series of head-scratching moves. They traded LeSean McCoy, their all-time leading rusher who’s in the prime of his career, for Kiko Alonso, a former Defensive Rookie of the Year who’s still recovering from a torn ACL. They let Jeremy Maclin, their leading receiver( 1,318 receiving yards in 2014), walk in free agency. To top it off, they traded Nick Foles, who made the Pro Bowl in 2013, for the oft-injured Sam Bradford, who’s yet to live up to first-pick-in-the-draft status.
Why? To bolster the defense. Cap room. Insanity.
Stephen A. Smith, one of the host of ESPN’s First Take, had his own theory. “Chip Kelly makes decisions over the last couple of years that, dare I say, leave a few brothers feeling uncomfortable,” Smith said. “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?”
If you didn’t read the opening line of this column or get the context of Smith’s soliloquy, he’s saying that the black folks in Philly think he’s racist.
How Stephen A. going to call Chip racist? He just signed Byron Maxwell, who’s black. Resigned Mark Sanchez, who’s Mexican. Tried to sign Frank Gore, who’s black. And he’s about to sign DeMarco Murray, who’s black.
You’re right. Chip Kelly isn’t engaging in extreme racism. He’s engaging in extreme hubris.
Kelly has the classic I’m-the-smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome. If the locker room reports are true, the former college coach runs and tight ship and doesn’t tolerate players bucking up against him.
DeSean Jackson bucked up. Released.
Cary Williams bucked up. Released.
LeSean McCoy bucked up. Traded his butt to Buffalo.
And with Kelly winning a power struggle this past January, he’s now has control of all player personnel moves. So, he’ll establish whatever culture he wants and get rid of anyone who won’t fall in line.
I have to pause and ask the real question: Who the heck is Chip Kelly for him to be able to attain this level of power?
Very few coaches in the NFL have full personnel control. And by a few, I mean Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll. Carroll doesn’t have the final say on draft picks and free agency, though. That’s two coaches who have power over personnel moves…TWO. Kelly is now the third.
In all fairness, let’s review his key personnel moves since he was given full control.
Trading LeSean McCoy: Kelly traded one of the top running backs in the NFL and a great system fit for a player who’s coming off an injury. If Alonso returns to his rookie form, he will improve an Eagle run defense which finished 15th in the NFL. If he doesn’t return to form, you’ve traded one of the most explosive weapons in the NFL for damaged goods.
Let Jeremy Maclin Walk: Maclin signed a five-year, 55 million dollar deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. 11 million a season is a hefty price tag. It may be a smart move to let him walk. But the Eagles are left with Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews as their primary options. That’s assuming Kelly doesn’t draft a receiver.
Trading Nick Foles For Sam Bradford: This was a true I’m-the-smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome move. He essentially traded Nick Foles for, well, Nick Foles. Bradford is big like Foles. He can’t run like Foles. Bradford just has a quicker release and was drafted first in the draft. There’s nothing to suggest he’s better, though.
In addition to those moves, he released Cary Williams and replaced him with Byron Maxwell, which should improve a porous pass defense that finished 31st in the NFL.
The Eagles defense is better with Kelly’s acquisitions. No doubt. But will they be able to score?
Even if an offensive scheme is complex and innovative, you need talented players who can execute it. As smart as Belichick is ballyhooed to be, he has a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, acquired Randy Moss (2007) and signed LeGarrette Blount, a mercurial but talented running back, to get his team over the hump. Not to mention the fact he took a chance on Aaron Hernandez, who had character concerns coming out of college.
Kelly may know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe LeSean McCoy is about to go into decline. Maybe Jeremy Maclin will never have 1,000 yards receiving again. Maybe Kiko Alonso is the next Ray Lewis. Maybe Sam Bradford becomes a durable, elite quarterback under Kelly’s tutelage. Maybe he had a master plan to sign DeMarco Murray the whole time.
Or maybe Chip Kelly is about to suffer the same fate as every other college coach who thought he could reinvent the NFL: fired and back to the college game where they belonged in the first place.
Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central and Thursday’s 8-10 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist.