Coach Chip Kelly’s impact on the Eagles on the field is easy to see.
But to owner Jeffrey Lurie, the way his rookie coach handled this summer’s Riley Cooper incident was proof that he hired the right man before Kelly coached a game.
“He brings people together, and he’s dynamic,” Lurie said of Kelly, via Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Cooper’s a good example, a really good example.”
After Cooper was caught on videotape using the ugliest of the racial slurs, Kelly was able to smooth things out to get his team to coexist. Lurie recalled his new coach walking into his office and saying: “Here’s how I’d like to handle it.”
“Chip had a plan of how to deal with the humanness of it all,” Lurie said. “He really was able to help get the team together through the adversity. That’s what you have to do in the NFL, because you’re always going to have things like that.
“It wasn’t sort of a knee-jerk reaction. It was a thoughtful reaction, and he understands the locker room and the players and the chemistry and what needed to be done. It wasn’t like he was a populist politician or something. It’s about true leadership, not superficial leadership.”
Cooper went away for a few days, a team meeting was called to give everyone a chance to talk, and then Kelly left it to players to handle, with quarterback Michael Vick playing a significant role in helping him back in.
Granted, all those actions were based in part on the fact the Eagles needed Cooper on the field. A player who wasn’t so important to their plan may well have been handled differently.
But Kelly’s ability to put out his first fire showed his boss that bigger things were possible, and Kelly’s already delivering that too.