BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The recent words uttered by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper has given everyone an indication of just how far the Eagles are from being formidable once again.
The NFL is unlike any other professional league. It is the one sport where players practice more than they play. It is the one sport where the bulk of your time is spent preparing rather than executing.
This is why it is paramount that a roster be comprised of individuals who possess almost linear focus. A group that, regardless of what has transpired remains steadfast and fixated on the task at hand.
In the NFL, unlike other professional leagues, wayward thinkers can not only cost you the game, but in some cases, it can cost a player his career. Each cog must move and think in unison, with putting the team first at all times.
This ordeal surrounding Cooper is just another example of a player elevating himself over the team. What the wide receiver said was despicable, but it is his selfish mindset that we should truly detest.
Every NFL player is fully aware that they represent the league and their prospective teams when they step outside, so they are expected to act accordingly. Every action has a reaction, and in most cases the reaction will include press conferences, players forced to release statements, and players being asked not about the game, but about different players’ actions.
It is now apparent that the Eagles are and were infested with, players who are only NFL players on Sunday. From former Eagles' conerback Nnamdi Asomugha eating in his car, to the “interesting” mind if Jason Babin, it should have been no surprise that these Birds faltered so tragically last season.
It appears these “me first”players are still present and ready to be accounted for on this current Eagles roster, and has rudely awaken us all to the fact that our Birds are more than just a quarterback away from competing for titles.
Grown men do not accidently say things. They are quite aware of what leaves their lips, and have made a conscious effort to accept the actions that ensue.
Cooper knew what he was saying and who he was saying it to. He didn’t care. Those who doubt that can ponder on this; the Kenny Chesney concert where Riley spoke his mind was on June 8th, a full 53 days later, an apology was given.
The wide receiver was not thinking of the horrid position he put his brothers in when he shared his viewpoints. Nor did he care about how it made the franchise look, as the Eagles attempt to return from NFL purgatory.
No one truly knows what lies in the heart of Cooper, and to be fair no one should care. The only thing that should matter is does he and the other men on this current roster think team first at all times.
Based on those actions the question has arisen, does Head Coach Chip Kelly have the foundation necessary to build a winner?
The answer thus far is no.
Consistency builds character; the Birds need to be consistent in cultivating a character conducive to a winning football teams.
Coaches have to be consistent in ridding a team of “me first” personalities. We should all remember Camden, New Jersey native George Hegamin. The former Dallas Cowboy was a prized free agent signing who left the team upon finding out he was being demoted to second team.
The guard returned at the request of his agent, pushed a slide and two weeks later was pushed out the door. Hegamin was part of an Eagles team that had gone 3 – 13 the season before, and was part of the problem not the solution. The new Head Coach of the Birds then was an unproven leader, who in his first season led the Eagles to a 5 – 11 record.
Kelly must follow suit and release Cooper.
Truth is the internet is littered with people who are not African-Americans uttering the very same word. The difference is they do not suit up for our beloved Birds, so quite frankly we do not care.
Far be it from any of us to judge Riley on anything other than how his actions affect the football team.
However, the foundation of team first players was being formed. A group of players who would survive bitter contract disputes (Jeremiah Trotter), devastating injuries (Donovan McNabb, Damon Moore, and Duce Staley), and gut wrenching losses.
The Eagles consistently put the team first in those days, thus building the character necessary to compete at a high level.
In San Francisco, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh continues to win football games with a roster comprised of players that many deemed untalented. The very same roster that two coaches prior to him failed at leading, is now winning because of a team first mentality.
Yet Harbaugh’s lessons were tested at the most critical of times. During Super Bowl week 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver decided to void away from the principles that led his club to the ultimate contest.
The 49ers would go on to lose Super Bowl XLVII 34 -31, and while many will point to occurrences on the field it is not a coincidence that such actions always precede losses.
Today, we are being told the Cooper’s comments should be forgiven and we must move on, but if he remains on this team what are we moving on to. Furthermore, what message does it send to the other players on this team who are now forced to speak to reporters, as well as, other players around the league regarding something non-football related?
Everyday a new challenge emerges, and in the NFL players must trust the man next to them to do what they have been taught and prepared to do. The slightest deviation from those lessons can be the difference between winning and losing.
It is imperative that a strong foundation be laid when building a winning team. A foundation made of players who a coach can rely on to do what he has been instructed to do, regardless of the adversity standing before him.
Riley Cooper has told us all who he really is, and there is no reason why we should not listen. Cooper’s actions deviated from what his brothers on the team have been prepared and taught to do, this should leave little doubt to who the receiver is and will be when needed the most.
Cooper’s release is not just necessary, but should be a foregone conclusion if this team is to ever build a true championship contender.