PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Chip Kelly just can’t seem to help himself. The third-year Eagles coach made a decision late Saturday night that came attached with another quandary that he can’t seem to shake: The burgeoning topic of race and personnel decisions.
Kelly, who carries the most curiosity of any coach in the NFL, making the Eagles the most curious team in the NFL, made another curious move when he jettisoned nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin. So the prevailing topic of the first day of Eagles training camp on Sunday wasn’t Sam Bradford, or the rebuilt offensive line, or Tim Tebow, or the defensive secondary.
No, it was another head-scratching move Kelly made when he traded Boykin to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional fifth-round draft pick next year. And the reason behind it. Maybe it was Kelly trying to put more of his stamp on the Eagles in steadily dismantling the last remnants of the Andy Reid regime.
Kelly did clarify that if Boykin plays 60-percent of the snaps for the Steelers this season that fifth-round pick will become a fourth-round pick—and last year, Kelly noted, the Steelers’ nickel defensive back played over 60-percent of the downs.
But Boykin, apparently, had another reason.
In a text message to Comcast SportsNet’s Derrick Gunn shortly after hearing the news he was a Steeler, Boykin said Kelly is “uncomfortable around grown men of our culture,” implying that race could have been involved in the decision.
“He can’t relate and that makes him uncomfortable,” Boykin said in the text to Gunn. “He likes total control of everything, and he don’t like to be uncomfortable. Players excel when you let them naturally be who they are, and in my experience that hasn’t been important to him, but you guys have heard this before me.”
When running back LeSean McCoy was dealt to Buffalo, he implied to ESPN in May that Kelly “got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players.”
The coach that likes to ask ‘why’ had a media contingent asking Kelly on Sunday why this topic keeps coming up when he addressed the media.
“I don’t know,” Kelly said. “When talking to [Boykin], I think he was stunned. He was disappointed. He really liked it here. He liked his teammates. I told him myself the timing itself wasn’t a real good time but [the Steelers] actively pursued him. They wanted to trade for him at the draft and we turned it down. They called last week and we turned it down again. When we sat down as a group and looked at the offer they made to us, it speaks more to what our depth was at the position. We felt it was a move to make.
“It did surprise me [Boykin’s reaction later to Gunn], it really did. When he left here last night, he shook my hand and gave me a hug. He didn’t say anything. And I like Brandon, I just don’t know. I really don’t know. Brandon has a great work ethic. He did his job here. We never had an issue with him. He was a great teammate and was very well liked here. We have a lot of depth at that position. He have Byron Maxwell, and Nolan [Carroll], and [E.J.] Biggers, and [Jaylen] Watkins, [Denzel] Rice and [Randall] Evans. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions at corner, and we’re not going to be able to keep them all. We have nine [cornerbacks], and we’re probably going to keep five.”
Kelly admitted that Boykin being in the last year of his contract played a factor in the trade, and the fact that Pittsburgh’s offer got progressively better. Kelly said he was a big Brandon Boykin fan. He said he goes way back to when Boykin made a big interception in the final game of the 2013 season at Dallas that clinched the Eagles’ NFC East championship.
Asked if it bothers Kelly personally, considering the amount of time an NFL coach spends with his players, that multiple former players have made allegations about him and race on the way out, Kelly said, “Yea, it does. But the reality is we have 90 guys and you’re going to have to cut to 53, so 37 guys are going to be disappointed, and obviously I’d imagine all 37 have a different opinion as we have as a staff. But that’s what you have to do and that’s what we’re charged to do.”