Did Chip Kelly "lose the team" last year? Is he racist? Does he lack emotional intelligence?
Only a coach's players can answer questions like these, and it's hard to get a straight answer from them. When a coach is still around, no one wants to criticize a guy who can bench them and try to get them traded or cut. After he's fired, the pressure runs the other way. And given free agency, trades and coaching turnover, the shrewdest players are probably the ones who never comment publicly one way or the other.
Since Chip Kelly was fired, a handful of players have spoken out, some (DeMarco Murray and especially Lane Johnson) criticizing him and others (such as Walter Thurmond and Jason Kelce) offering support.
Tuesday on ESPN's SportsNation program, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins offered a nuanced view in between the two stances. Jenkins is thoughtful and eloquent as well as a snappy dresser (he sells his own line of custom bow ties), and is on the path toward a post-football career as a TV personality.
First off, he unequivocally shot down the allegations (or implications, really) that Kelly was racist.
"Chip has no issues with race and none that I've witnessed since the two years that I've been an Eagle. ... I think it's something that really was unnecessary and it only came from people who were upset that they were no longer Eagles."
On the issue of Chip relating to players, his answer was interesting.
"...the biggest reason which he's not in Philadelphia any more is just his ability to communicate with the players."
But it's not as simple as the alleged "lack of emotional intelligence."
"If you ever walk or sit him down and talk to him on your own, he's a great guy. He'll listen. I've had multiple conversations with him, whether it be good or bad, and he's open to listen to his players."
So what's the problem? It's on the group level, and related to his rapid-fire personnel decisions after he took over Howie Roseman's GM duties for the 2014 off-season.
"He's not proactive enough to really get the pulse of the team, especially when you have the off-season that we had last year, where he's getting rid of guys and making all these changes. When you have a situation like that, you have to be able to communicate with your players to instill confidence in them so they know that their jobs are secure, and that they can trust you. And that, it just really wasn't there."
So it wasn't just Chip's style, the players on the team, or his personnel changes. It was a combination of all of that, along with all the changes he brought to traditional NFL football.
"When there's a lot of turnover like that you want to be able to have guys, they have to be comfortable enough to at least say what's on their minds, be able to say what they like and what they don't like. And especially when you're bringing something new especially to the league, you have to have that kind of communication and it just wasn't there."
Reading between the lines of both Jenkins' comments and right tackle Lane Johnson's more incendiary complaints (he called Kelly a dictator), it seems that the trade of LeSean McCoy may have been the move that unnerved players the most.
Johnson said as much in a conversation with Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News.
"Maybe there was an intimidation factor . . . After Shady and all those guys were [subtracted], it opened up some eyes."
McCoy was a popular guy on the team, a "class clown" who goofed off in practice and clashed with Kelly over details as small as his desire for colored socks. Top beat reporter Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer called Shady "the alpha dog of the locker room" and suggested that his replacement, DeMarco Murray, was less liked by teammates.
Shady is also well known for partying. McLane attributed his popularity in part to the fact that he "often hosted parties and would invite the entire team." There were incidents reported in the press -- a woman sued McCoy after he kicked her off a party bus, and last summer McCoy posted invitations on Instagram for women over 21 to come to a private party with a dress code, non-disclosure agreement required and a secret location. (He canceled the party after negative publicity.) Two former teammates had scheduled a nightclub party to welcome McCoy back to Philadelphia when Buffalo came to town this past year, but McCoy no-showed after the Bills lost.
Chip Kelly suddenly traded McCoy for LB Kiko Alonso last spring. He said he traded McCoy for salary cap reasons, while owner Jeffrey Lurie suggested it was for football reasons (running east-west too much instead of north-south).
But coming a year after cutting DeSean Jackson -- who discussed his $5,000 bar tabs on his BET reality TV show, and was convicted of marijuana possession in 2009 -- some players may well have drawn the wrong conclusion about what made Kelly want to get rid of these two star players.