The coach’s roster overhaul in Philly has been abrupt, but it’s not—as two ex-Eagles have implied—motivated by racism. Plus, notes on Arian Foster’s bad deal, Jameis Winston’s bad day and Ray Rice’s desperation
1. I think Chip Kelly opened himself up to the kind of public scrutiny he’s facing now—jettisoned cornerback Brandon Boykin told CSN Philly he believed Kelly to be uncomfortable with “men of our culture” and former Philly running back LeSean McCoy said the head coach “got rid of all the good black players”—and I don't think any of it is remotely fair. His decision to retain documented hate-speech user Riley Cooper, coupled with the secrecy with which he runs the organization, makes him a target. But I'm convinced Kelly’s roster moves are the mark of a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to raze a roster in a hurry to get there, not a racist. I think there’s also some truth to the notion Kelly’s decisions are colored by his career experience managing powerless amateurs as opposed to millionaire pro athletes. Not convinced? Read Paul Domowitch’s excellent column.
2. I think news that Arian Foster suffered a potentially season-ending groin injury this week is a good example of why you don’t award running backs with guarantee-laden deals. Foster signed a five-year, $43.5 million contract before the 2012 season despite running backs having the highest non-brain injury rates in the NFL (various medical journals have identified linemen as the most frequent victims of cumulative head trauma). Foster is no exception to the rule, with his various groin, leg and back injuries in the pros. The Texans have paid about $25 million over three seasons to a running back who missed 11 games over the last two seasons; that number might double by the end of this season. Being a running back in the NFL is hell on the human body, and while a perfect world and a perfect league would compensate men for that abuse, this ain’t that.
3. I think it must be hard to be Jameis Winston. You finish a padded practice on an unbearably humid morning in early August—one during which you threw interceptions on the first and third plays of 11-on-11 competition—then you have to do a press conference, then go talk to a handful of individual reporters, one by one, until you get to go inside to hear about how you screwed up on that passing read, and this one, and that other one. You get home, crack open a Sports Drink or whatever, Google yourself (of course Jameis Googles himself), and see the following headline from SB Nation: “Jameis Winston threw 3 interceptions in a practice, Marcus Mariota still yet to throw 1 in training camp.” What an absurd way to compare players.
4. I think it has been a pleasure to see the multiplying Pro Football Focus staff on the road at our various tour stops, from Baltimore down the east coast all the way to Tampa. In addition to fielding a video crew at each camp, PFF boss Neil Hornsby recently made a big hire for the eight-year-old site: former Washington assistant Bobby Slowik. Also, he’s new to Twitter, so follow him.
5. I think it will be a long time before I hear a more desperate coffee order than the one I witnessed Tuesday night on the way from Tampa to Nashville in The MMQB Training Camp Tour van. It’s 9:54 p.m. ET, and we’ve just left the Braves game, mercifully, in the sixth inning. Peter King, our benevolent benefactor, did some recon on his Starbucks app (they really should pay us for all this free advertising) and realized the only Starbucks on our route was seven miles away and closing in six minutes. So he called the location and Chloe answered.
PK: Hello, I have a request. We have about 900 miles to drive and we are six minutes away and we’re wondering if you can stay open and take our order.
Chloe: Uhhh, okay, well you can give me the order now and pick it up.
PK: Perfect. Hold on… we’ll take a quad, whole milk, caramel macchiato, a tall iced coffee with a little bit of skim milk… sorry, two of those… Johnny? A venti iced coffee with skim milk, and a grande iced coffee, nothing in it. We will be there in 6.7 miles.
Chloe: Got it.
PK (to rest of van): Ok, does anybody want anything to nosh?
PK: Ok, that will be it, and thank you very much.
Chloe: We may have to lock the doors but we have a drive thru.
PK: O.K., yes, if the doors are locked we will come in the drive thru. We will see you in exactly six minutes.
Coffee was served at 10:02 p.m. Thanks Chloe.
6. I think I have one more coffee note: Peter told us earlier on the tour of the origins of his Starbucks obsession. In the late 80’s the only Starbucks location he knew of was located at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, and for years Peter would intentionally book flights that connected in Chicago so he could deplane, buy Starbucks coffee, get on another plane and reach his destination. This is a demented human being and he is responsible for the livelihoods of approximately a dozen people.
7. I think it was really something to hear Ray Rice admit the following in an interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill: “You kind of replay that in your mind when you see the video. And I know what it felt like to not want to live anymore, but I realized I couldn’t check out on my family. I couldn’t check out on my 3-year-old daughter. I know what it felt like to grow up without a father, so how could I turn my back on my family at this moment?”
8. I think it’s easy to feel really, really sorry for Ray Rice when he says things like this. Then I remember how short he was with local media on an everyday basis when he was among the hottest running backs in the NFL, and how, more importantly, if there were no video from that elevator there’s a high likelihood there would’ve been no arrest and minimal public backlash, if any. Now he’s on a futile media tour to clear his name, spilling his guts in an effort to arouse sympathy. I say futile because, as one player told me this week, “you can be an a------, a wife-beater, a racist in the NFL… ability trumps everything.”
9. I think it’s moments like these that keep me in love with sports.
10. I think The MMQB Tour is awesome for many reasons—the opportunity to see this country in all of its natural and manufactured beauty, the chance to catch up with some of the NFL employees and reporters I’ve missed for a few months, the overwhelming optimism of the preseason when every team is undefeated—but the biggest joy, by far, is the team. As we enter our third season, The MMQB has become my second family, and I wouldn’t swap the folks in this smelly, cramped van for anybody in the business.
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