NFL training camp marks the beginning of a team's coming-together process at the start of every season. With a first-year head coach and multiple draftees set to challenge for playing time, a new-look Philadelphia Eagles team needs as much positive bonding time as possible.
Cooper's remarks have since left a bad taste in many fans' and teammates' mouths, giving the Eagles an unfortunate distraction during a pivotal time in the season.
The media focus in Philadelphia has shifted from an interesting quarterback battle to a marginally talented receiver's racism.
This article is not meant to be an argument for political correctness, and I refuse to add fuel to the fire of Cooper's public crucifixion. My belief is simply that if the Eagles want to move forward and concentrate on football, the smartest move is to let go of the former Florida Gator. I aim to make my point strictly from a football operations standpoint.
Anonymous Eagle said Andy Reid would have dealt w/ Riley Cooper much more harshly. Agree. Would've cut him. Now it's a troubled team.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) August 1, 2013
New coach Chip Kelly is bringing a somewhat revolutionary system to the NFL, one of up-tempo practices, creative play design and high-frequency signal-calling. Kelly needs to hit the ground running early if he's to expect his players to buy in. To do so, he needs to compel the front office to rid the team of any unnecessary distractions.
That said, the Eagles are in a tricky position. Star receiver Jeremy Maclin recently tore his ACL and will miss the season, so Philadelphia is in need of wide receivers. Releasing Cooper would only increase their need.
Still, general manager Howie Roseman needs to feel confident enough in his roster to cut ties with a player who's lost the trust and respect of his teammates. Star Eagles running back LeSean McCoy summed up the feeling of a good number of players on the team when he recently remarked, "In a situation like this, you really find out about someone. Just on a friendship level, I can't really respect someone like that."
While a special teams player or fringe roster guy doesn't really have the authority to come out and say something like that, McCoy has earned the right to speak candidly about Cooper's character. And it's hard to say he's not representing multiple Eagles who aren't in a position to speak up.
LeSean McCoy told me what hurts about Cooper's remarks is "losing a friend." I asked him what that meant, "I can't respect a guy like that."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 1, 2013
In the way of pass catchers, Philadelphia still has DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson, Brent Celek, James Casey, Clay Harbor and draftee Zach Ertz. Benn could be the key, as he's been just productive enough over his short NFL career to warrant consideration as a starter.
It seems as though Cooper is genuinely apologetic, but some things can't be unheard. While it may be unfair for the receiver to lose his roster spot over one alcohol-fueled remark, the Eagles simply can't afford a distraction this offseason.
Releasing Cooper looks to be a good move for a Philadelphia squad moving into a new era.