LeSean McCoy: The Running Back Who Cried Wolf

LeSean McCoy: The Running Back Who Cried Wolf

How LeSean McCoy, Tra Thomas and Stephen A. Smith Confuse Capism With Racism

I was in the middle of a great addition to my chapter on the 2014 Patriots for Caponomics, but then I had to get drawn into a bit of a rant on this because LeSean McCoy and Stephen A Smith are in the news again for saying absolute nonsense.

Let’s preface this being fair and saying, I was never in the Eagles locker room, therefore, I can never say I know what happened in that locker room or what LeSean McCoy may have experienced, so we all must keep that in mind. We have never walked a mile in his shoes, nor know what caused him to feel this way, but with that in mind, I still think he’s overstepped his boundaries and has made himself out to be a fool.

We also must keep in mind that, like any industry, racism exists in football and it’s for both black and white players. Brandan Schaub from The Fighter and the Kid podcast is a UFC fighter now, but during his football playing days at the University of Colorado, he had a racist running backs coach. While watching film of Nebraska’s white running back, his coach said, “I don’t know why white guys play football, they just can’t do the same things that us black guys can do.” This was while white Brendan Schaub was in the meeting room. Not exactly how you make one of your players feel welcome.

What really kind of set me off to write this was an article by Phil Sheridan, ESPN’s Philadelphia Eagles reporter, titled: “LeSean McCoy’s comments are a sign that Chip Kelly is caught in a trap.” What trap Phil? Are we talking about the trap of 2015 where everything that you do that someone can disagree with can be seen as racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or whatever the name is for the group that is involved in the situation? It’s gross that Mr. Sheridan would even play into this nonsense.

By the end of his article, Sheridan even makes some counter points against McCoy’s statement with the following facts, so I don’t understand what trap Kelly is in:

  • “Kelly traded quarterback Nick Foles, who is white.”
  • “In free agency, Kelly replaced McCoy with another African-American running back,DeMarco Murray (on a five-year, $42 million contract). Kelly also signed cornerback Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million deal — the largest contract of Kelly’s tenure.”
  • “In the NFL, if you trade or release a Pro Bowl-level player like McCoy or Jackson, there is a good chance he’ll be black. A 2014 study showed that 68 percent of NFL players are African-American.”
  • “Kelly tried to sign Maclin to a new contract, but dropped out when Kansas City went to $11 million per year. To replace Maclin, Kelly draftedNelson Agholor in the first round last week.”
  • “Five of the Eagles’ six draft choices are African-American. Only seventh-round pickBrian Mihalik is white.”
  • “Finally, when Kelly became head coach of the Eagles, he inherited Foles and Michael Vickas his candidates for starting quarterback. Vick won the competition. At Oregon, Kelly’s starting quarterbacks included African-Americans Darron Thomas and Dennis Dixon before Tongan Marcus Mariota took over.”

Sheridan noted that the Eagles had 21 non-black players on their 53-man roster at the end of the 2014 season or about 40% of the team, which is slightly higher than the 32% league-wide. Of those 21 players, Cooper is one of the seven who were originally signed or drafted under Andy Reid.

Former Eagles assistant coach Tra Thomas says that he feels “like there is a hint of racism,” but he doesn’t want to “put that tag on someone,” because “you’ve got to be careful with that, but there are some of the players that kind of feel like that’s what it is.” Strong words from a man of strong convictions.

Thomas then goes on to cite “a report that came out last year” regarding the Eagles being “one of the whitest teams in the NFL.” All very serious allegations and something that we should certainly get the Justice Department to investigate. I mean seriously, what can we do when a staggering 40% of the people you work with are white? How can we fight this injustice?

Another point from Thomas regarding Kelly’s perceived racism is that the Eagles have only one African-American position coach, Duce Staley, their running back coach. Tre Williams is now on the scouting staff after being the tight ends coach. Both players were with the Eagles before Kelly was hired.

Sheridan states that out of 23 assistant coaches for the Eagles, seven are African American, that’s just over 30%.

The only real trap that Sheridan speaks to is that since Kelly didn’t release Cooper after that racial episode in 2013, it has given Thomas, Smith and McCoy some firepower to make these charges of racism. Kelly has declined to comment on this and to that Sheridan says, “that might be easier than trying to challenge the perception that’s out there, but silence only seems to make the trap sticker and harder to escape.”

Now the question is, does anyone who should be taken seriously actually think that Chip Kelly is racist?

First, how do we keep giving Stephen A. Smith a voice? There are times in the past where I have applauded him for raising issues that I think should be raised and speaking his mind, but the last few months have raised only one issue for me with Stephen A. Smith, one question for him: are you the racist?

When Tom Brady skipped going to the White House, Stephen A. went on this ten to fifteen minute rant about how Brady was disrespecting the president and even suggested that this man who has made a career out of playing with and leading black and white men might be a racist…Tom Brady might be a racist for not going to the White House…because it was his parents 50th Anniversary…what planet are Smith on?

Smith went on a rant a couple months ago about how Kelly got rid of McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, but still kept Riley Cooper. What Smith is doing is showing his ignorance to the NFL’s salary cap, he’s mistaken racism with capism!

So let’s dive into this!!

In 2015, LeSean McCoy was set to have a cap hit of $11.95 million for the Eagles, while earning $10.25 million in salary. As Jason says, “neither number shoule ever occur for a running back in today’s NFL and it is possible that McCoy would have been released had he refused a pay cut.” His cap hit would have taken up 8.34% of the cap. Instead, he counts as $3.4 million in dead money, which is only 2.37% AND the Eagles got one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, a position they needed to upgrade going into this season in Kiko Alonso, who will take up a mere 0.56% of the cap.

So the Eagles got rid of a guy who’s cap hit was out of line with what a running back should be paid in today’s NFL and who was Pro Football Focus’ 55th rated running back…out of 57 running backs. Something that very few people realize is that the Eagles offensive line was one of the best in the NFL last season, they were rated by PFF as the #1 run blocking offense in the NFL. Their rating of 85.7 was 30 points higher than the Cowboys who were #2, but their rush rating was 22nd at -3.1, largely because LeSean McCoy had a -1.4 rushing rating behind the best blocking in the NFL.

And, to top it off, McCoy signed his overpriced extension the year before Kelly was named the Eagles head coach, so it wasn’t like he was “Kelly’s guy.” From a team building standpoint or looking for players that fit what Kelly wants in a running back, who knows if McCoy fits the mold of what he even wants.

Again, they also got a great player, Kiko Alonso, in the trade at a low-cost and at a position they needed help at. That can’t be forgotten, it wasn’t like he trade McCoy for a bucket of Rex Ryan’s favorite buffalo wings.

Anyway, what happened with the 5.41% of the cap that the Eagles saved by trading McCoy for Alonso? They spent 4.89% of it on two running backs who aren’t white: Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray. I think it would be hilarious if a reporter asked McCoy where Chip Kelly could find some white running backs?

While Mathews was injured for much of last season, he’s a player who can do a lot of good things when healthy and fits into Kelly’s offense. Murray has some of those injury issues as well, but most people say he fits Kelly’s scheme better than McCoy and he was the 5th best running back according to PFF, not the 55th.

So they went and got themselves TWO running backs with the money they saved with the trade and they had 0.52% of the cap left over to spend elsewhere.

So there is one case where the salary cap and good management supersedes the cry of racism. One down, two to go.

So with Jeremy Maclin, why did Lyndon Baines Kelly get rid of him? Oh, because Maclin got offered a five-year contract worth $55 million, with a $12 million signing bonus, from the coach who drafted him, Andy Reid. So what did LBK do after that? Did he go sign Brian Hartline, Wes Welker, and Dane Sanzenbacher? Nope. He signed Miles Austin and Seyi Ajirotutu, then he went and drafted Maclin’s replacement, African American wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round, Maclin 2.0.

As I wrote in my last piece, Agholor couldn’t be more similar to Maclin:

Maclin: 6’/198, 4.48, 10’ broad jump, 35 ½” vert, 7.06 3 cone

Agholor: 6’/198, 4.42, 10’5” broad jump, 36 ½” vert, 6.83 3 cone

Maclin turns 27 this year, white Agholor turns 22 and adds a punt return dimension that Maclin doesn’t have.

While Maclin’s 2015 cap hit is low due to his signing bonus, in 2016, Maclin’s number is $12.4 million, while Agholor will only cost $2 million.If the salary cap goes up to $153 million in 2016, Maclin will take up 8.10% of the cap, while Agholor will take up 1.31% of the cap.

Through the first four seasons of these contracts, it is projected that the Eagles will save $32,703,526 by having Agholor instead of Maclin. That is $32.7 million that the Eagles will have to spend on other positions and needs over the next four years, while still having a player in Agholor who should produce at a similar level to Maclin fairly quickly because his attributes, measurables and talents are so similar to Maclin’s.

(History Lesson: Lyndon Baines Johnson was one of the most racist men to ever occupy the White House, he helped dismantle President Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act of 1957 when he was in the Senate, only to push it through in 1964 for purely political reasons and the quotes attributed at the time will make you shudder. I feel it’s important for people to research and understand this because history has been rewritten regarding this man. Plus, saying Lyndon Baines Kelly in a serious voice made me chuckle, what can I say, I’ve been writing all day and only talking to my dog.)

Lastly, with Jackson, I did not like the way rumors were bandied about regarding his gang affiliations and things of that nature, he has reportedly been a good citizen throughout his career, but according to NJ.com, that was only part of the issue for why they cut ties. Keep in mind, with what happened with Aaron Hernandez only two years before the Eagles traded Jackson, their concerns that “his friends were becoming a more powerful – and negative – influence in his life” is a legitimate cause for worry.

Sources told NJ.com that he had “a bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly” and that those “were the original reasons for his fall from grace.”

I fully supported Jackson’s side of this story when it happened on the personal level, I thought it was gross the way the media portrayed the issue. Do you think Jackson should just give up hanging out with the people he grew up with because society is going to judge him? Most of our society doesn’t even know how to judge him and has no right to because it’s not their life. Again, by all accounts, Jackson is a good man.

But hey, let’s look at the salary cap again! Jackson, like McCoy, signed an extension in the 2012 offseason, the year before Kelly came on board. He also was grumbling that he hoped the Eagles would re-do his contract heading into the 2014 offseason, something that Kelly obviously did not want to do. Jackson had a cap hit of $12.75 million in 2014, which was 9.59% of the salary cap. By trading him, they cleared 4.89% of the cap, which isn’t a lot, but was probably the right move for a guy who wasn’t going to be happy playing on that contract in 2014 and because they could easily draft some replacements for him in the draft or sign someone in free agency.

They signed Darren Sproles who helped in Kelly’s pass catching running back role and as a punt return, then drafted Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to solve the loss of Jackson long-term.

Jackson went to Washington and signed a contract that he could be happy with, he also had 1169 yards on 56 catches (20.9 ypc) and six touchdowns, a great season for a player who has a lot left and who I sure wish the best.

Matthews had 67 catches for 872 yards (13.0 ypc) and eight touchdowns, while taking up only 0.68% of the salary cap as a second round pick. Huff only had 8 catches for 98 yards (12.3 ypc), but did have a 107 kickoff return for a touchdown along with his 14 returns for 415 yards, while taking up 0.42% of the cap.

So I’m sorry Mr. McCoy, is the salary cap racist? Is Chip Kelly racist for getting the best return on his investment that he can possibly make? Is he racist for trying to do the best job he can, so that he doesn’t get fired?

This is like the third time this offseason that McCoy has brought up this charge of racism against Kelly and it’s just wrong. Relax LeSean! He’s not judging you by the color of your skin; he’s judging you by your cap number and your performance on the field!

Meanwhile, Riley Cooper got resigned after the 2013 season because he had just had a great season with 47 catches for 835 yards (17.8 ypc) and eight touchdowns. He was pretty bad last season, but that just means that resigning him to a five-year, $22.5 million deal might have been a mistake. His cap hits through 2018 are still incredibly low for someone who’s supposed to be a WR2. In 2015, he’s only taking up 3.35% of the cap and makes him the 11th highest paid Eagle. This means the Eagles don’t have a WR in their Top 10 cap hits, which is very unusual, but also shows the value that they’re getting out of the position because they have one of the best receiver groups in the league with Zach Ertz and Brent Celek at tight end and pass catching running backs as well.

Cooper was the 110th rated receiver…out of 110 receivers last year according to PFF, but all that means is that they made a big mistake signing him to an extension. What does McCoy want though? Does he want Kelly to cut Cooper this year with $6.2 million in dead money cap hit if the Eagles cut him, but a $4.8 million cap hit if Cooper’s on the team? So McCoy wants them to waste $1.4 million to what? Prove that Chip Kelly is not only not a racist, but also a moronic businessman?
I remember when the word racism used to have meaning, when people used to cringe at the idea of being called racist. Today, being called a racist just means that someone disagrees with you. Being called a sexist on Twitter means that you just made fun of the people who are offended at what Jeremy Renner called a fictional movie character or the people outraged at what Bud Light put on their bottles.

Apparently, all being called a racist takes today is trading or not resigning some black players in a sport that’s 68% black.

The only thing I hate as much as racism are false cries of racism.

Tweet me: @ZackMooreNFL

If you liked the kind of cap analysis that went into this article, please e-mail me at Caponomics@gmail.com, so that you are added to our e-mail list and get some bonus finished chapters as they become available. Last week, I sent out our chapter analyzing the 2000 Ravens. 

Caponomics is a book that analyzes the Super Bowl champions from the last 21 seasons, creates theories based on this analysis and then uses those theories to discuss why 2014 teams were or were not successful.