Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers had a better vantage point than most to see the implosion of Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles 300 miles to the east.
How Kelly went from total domination of a franchise to being canned in one calendar year is one of this season’s most fascinating off-field stories.
In case you missed it, the minute Kelly started making personnel decisions he took a perfectly respectable 10-6 Eagles team and blew it up; dismissing long beloved stars like LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole and Evan Mathis and trading his starting quarterback for a giant question mark.
Kelly’s shakeup of the roster was shocking; the gambles almost unthinkable at this level of football.
Most of his moves did not pan out and eventually Kelly totally lost the players thanks to an attitude that he was superior to them. At least that’s what Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin seems to think.
Speaking in an interview with Mark Kaloby of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boykin characterized Kelly as a terrible people person, saying he much prefers Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin:
“Tomlin treats players like professionals and grown men… You can’t trick players or pretend to be someone you’re not if the results aren’t there. The guys who were man enough to make a difference and do something about it were axed… He acted like he was better and smarter than people at his level, and that’s where the respect was lost.”
Kelly’s demise is about as close the NFL comes to greek tragedy. Ultimately his own arrogance both in football decisions and personal relationships was his undoing, and he brought down a whole team with him.
In retrospect, Boykin’s release from Philadelphia over the summer was a sign that Kelly had lost his grip on common sense.
Coming into the 2015 season Boykin was widely regarded as one of (if not the) best slot cornerbacks playing in the league. Despite being undersized, Boykin’s reputation as a fierce defender in coverage was consistent with the elites at the position.
Boykin got let go by the Eagles because apparently Kelly thought he was too short to start outside. Because he did not fit the grand, foolish puzzle Chip was trying to build he was discardarded. Pittsburgh fans had better hope that Tomlin does not repeat that mistake.
Early on the Steelers let Boykin ferment on the bench but of late they have been using him more. For the year Boykin is playing 20.7 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
That’s certainly an improvement over zero, which was the case for nearly half the season. Baby steps.