Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has at once been hailed and mocked for his unconventional approach to building a football program. But the most controversial news he is making surrounds accusations from some of his former African-American players that he has a vast disconnect with young, Black culture. Paradoxically, it is both perplexing and understandable.
The onetime head coach of the Oregon Ducks constructed what is now a perennial college powerhouse utilizing innovative sports performance techniques comprising strength and conditioning, recovery, sleep and brain functioning. The 51-year-old Kelly, who was born and raised in New Hampshire, did so with a roster full of African-American players from some of the most impoverished and crime-ridden urban strongholds in the country.
There was little to no public criticism of Kelly’s relations with those players while at Oregon. But since taking over the helm of the Eagles, Kelly, now in his third season with the team, has been the target of repeated accusations of racial and cultural bias.
Last week, Brandon Boykin, a fourth-year cornerback who was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the weekend, said Kelly struggles to identify with Black players.
“He can’t relate and that makes him uncomfortable,” Boykin communicated to CSNPhilly.com. “Players excel when you let them naturally be who they are, and in my experience that hasn’t been important to him.”
Boykin later said to reporters at the Steelers’ training camp, “When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field … There were times he just didn’t talk to people. I’m not saying he’s a racist in any way.”
But the implication is clear, as it was with former Eagles such as running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson whom Kelly, jettisoned despite both being among the best in the NFL at their positions.
Kelly’s alleged marginalization of their individuality and cultural norms could have a negative impact on his goal to replicate his success at Oregon in Philadelphia.