By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the drama at NovaCare had kind of subsided just a wee bit, the Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made another eye-raising move on Thursday by giving the heave-ho to two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.
While the team hasn’t made an official announcement just yet, Mathis himself made the announcement on Twitter: “Thanks for the memories Philly.”
I guess the first thing that should jump out at you in the midst of Kelly’s purge of the team’s best veteran players is that being outspoken or even looking like you’re a critic of this regime will get you fired. Since assuming command of the team’s football operations, Kelly has made it clear that while a player maybe good, no one is above being kicked to the curb.
You can’t say that move was about race or any of his moves including the trade of running back LeSean McCoy. Kelly has made it emphatically clear that this is his team, ride or die.
The Eagles have become the real-life version of the 1970s football movie, “North Dallas 40.” Kelly, who makes all the personnel decisions, has become B.A. Strothers, the demanding coach played by G.D Spradling, who likened a football team to a well-oiled machine. In one scene the coach in the film if one of those gears from that machine flies off on its own, he would pull it.
Kelly has definitely done that when anyone dared to be a critic of his football ideology. McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams have all been shown the door in one way or the other. The latest casualty of Kelly’s totalitarian rule is their malcontent Pro Bowl offensive lineman.
Mathis did not show up for the team’s “voluntary” organized team activities mainly because he dared to not be happy with his contract. He wanted more money and he wanted it guaranteed. The Eagles response to Mathis was stay home and don’t ya come back no more.
What makes this move even more painful for Mathis was that he was scheduled to make $5.5 million and $6 million next season. Despite his accomplishments on the field for the last couple years, some observers around the league are saying that it is highly doubtful that’s he going to make that kind of money at 33-years-old—he turns 34 in November.
Throughout the offseason, the Eagles had been looking to trade Mathis, but could find no takers. Given Kelly’s penchant for putting the kybosh on guys who don’t buy into the system, general managers around the league figured why give up a draft choice or a player to be named later when you can sign him as a free agent, possibly at a cheaper price.
The irony of this was that Mathis bought into Kelly’s holistic approach to the football which involves proper diet and nutrition along with getting plenty of sleep. I guess in Kelly’s mind Mathis wanting more money is a violation of a team that he wants to carve into his own image.
And so even with the departure of former head coach Andy Reid and former team president Joe Banner, the Birds are still the Logan’s Run of pro football where turning 30-something can be hazardous to your job security no matter how good you were the past couple of seasons.
Somewhere in the state of Ohio, Banner is smiling at Kelly’s handiwork.
Meanwhile, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner will be vying to replace Matthew. My caveat to Kelly is that if you’re going to cut guys they have to be better than the guy being let go.
Running back DeMarco Murray had better have the kind of season to make fans say, LeSean who? Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to stay healthy and be productive enough to make people forget Nick Foles. The Eagles defense with its young defensive backs needs to stop people.
In other words, the end-result of all the offseason moves had better translate into a division title and a run deep into the playoffs. If it doesn’t, Kelly will find out in no uncertain terms that he, too, is expendable as the players he’s cut or traded.