When the going gets tough, the tough… point the finger? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
On Wednesday Chip Kelly experienced first hand what the hot seat feels like. In his press conference Kelly was asked whether opposing defenses had figured out his offense. Kelly of course denied such a claim, but he didn’t stop there. He got defensive:
“When you’re not successful, I think guys are grasping at excuses, to be honest with you. We still need to block and tackle. What I’m saying is we need to execute.”
Oh boy. I cringed when I heard the words leave his mouth. Could what Kelly said have been worse? Absolutely. He could have singled out individuals. He could have criticized the offensive line or the running backs. What Kelly said wasn’t a total catastrophe. It is a problem, though, and it demonstrates how little Kelly understands the NFL culture.
You see, in college, coaches are the power brokers. Players have no leverage. Yes, they can opt to transfer but that would require a year off and finding a new program to promise playing time. Collegiate athletes are at the mercy of the coach. In the NFL (and all professional sports for that matter), players own the power. Kelly has already shown he won’t work with players unwilling to yield that power. (Here’s looking at you, Shady and DeSean.) It’s the same reason Nick Saban bolted back to college after a brief stint in the NFL. The job’s harder when you actually have to earn the respect of your players.
To be fair, I’d argue Kelly has his team’s respect at this point. They seem to enjoy playing for him, even if he’s more controlling and OCD than most NFL coaches. However, what Kelly did Wednesday will likely cost him some of that respect. You don’t just throw your players under the bus when the road gets bumpy. If you don’t think that’s what happened, read his quote again, “WHAT I’M SAYING IS WE NEED TO EXECUTE.” Translation: “This isn’t my fault. Blame them.”
Sorry Chip, you’re the coach. In many ways, you’re the head of the household. That means when the angry mob shows up at your front door to tar and feather your kids, you stand there and take the abuse for them. Andy Reid made it his life mission to not publicly blame players for subpar performances. Yes, 95% of the media and fans hated him for it, but that was his job. It should be Kelly’s job, too.
Besides, Kelly already has a perception problem around the league. Some foolishly believe he’s a racist. Others reasonably argue he can’t handle anything but submissive obedience. Deflecting responsibility for two humiliating performances and redirecting blame onto the players is a bad look. It’s weakness.
This is Chip’s team, built by him for him with players he handpicked. There are no excuses here. It’s his mess. He needs to clean it up. So next time, instead of running that bus over his players, Chip should offer up a cliché, “We gotta do a better job there.” Yes, most will hate him for it, but for the 53 people that actually matter, it’ll make a world of difference. But then again, Chip’s a genius. I shouldn’t have to tell him this.