LeSean McCoy's comments are a sign that Chip Kelly is caught in a trap

PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly is in a trap with no easy way to extricate himself.

The whispers about the Eagles head coach have turned into public declarations. Running back LeSean McCoy, who was traded from Philadelphia to Buffalo in March, said it on the record in an interview with ESPN The Magazine:

"The relationship was never really great," McCoy said. "I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that's the way he runs his team. He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That's the truth. There's a reason. ... It's hard to explain with him. But there's a reason he got rid of all the black players -- the good ones -- like that."

McCoy cited comments by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith as support. Earlier in the offseason, former Eagles offensive lineman Tra Thomas, who spent two years as an assistant coach under Kelly, echoed those sentiments.

"One of the things that you're seeing right now, and these are the things that you have heard from the locker room from different players is that ... they feel like there is a hint of racism," Thomas said on WTXF-TV Fox 29. "When you put that tag on someone, 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. Especially when there was a report that came out last year that the Eagles were one of the whitest teams in the NFL. So you start to see the culture of the team change extremely quickly, when Coach Kelly takes over."

At the NFL owners meetings in March, Kelly said he was "disappointed" by Thomas' comments.

"I didn't really see it, but I heard about it," Kelly said in Phoenix. "I was just disappointed. We gave Tra a great opportunity. He came in on a Bill Walsh minority internship program. Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie was nice enough to keep him on for two years -- one on offense, one on defense -- see if he could find a job in the NFL. So I hope Tra does find a job in the NFL. We don't have a job open."

Kelly was asked about the number of white players on the roster.

"I don't look at the color of any player," Kelly replied. "I just look at how do they fit on our team. In 2015, I don't think that's something that's ever come into my mindset."

There are a couple of elements at work here. Let's take them one at a time.

The most provocative element is the presence of wide receiver Riley Cooper, who is white. During Kelly's first training camp, in 2013, a video of Cooper using the "N-word" surfaced on a local website. It was Kelly's first crisis as head coach of the Eagles. He decided to let Cooper remain with the team after apologizing to his teammates and speaking to many of them face to face. After the 2013 season, Cooper signed a new five-year contract worth $22.5 million. He remains on the roster.

That was the foundation of Smith's criticism on ESPN's First Take. Kelly released wide receiver DeSean Jackson last year. This year, he traded McCoy and lost Jeremy Maclin in free agency.

"We're sitting here looking at some of the decisions that Chip Kelly makes and I'm like, what is up -- what's up with that? It's like you've got to be his kind of guy, you know? And when Riley Cooper's your kind of guy?" Smith said. "Now I'm not saying I know, I'm just going to say that it does strike me as a tad bit odd. I'm going to repeat this. Gone: LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson. Staying: Riley Cooper. Really? Really?"

A little context might be helpful here. 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 drafted Nelson Agholor in the first round last week. Five of the Eagles' six draft choices are African-American. Only seventh-round pick Brian Mihalik is white.

The Eagles had 21 non-black players on their 53-man roster at the end of the 2014 season. That's about 40 percent, compared to 32 percent league-wide. Of those 21 players, seven were originally signed or drafted while Andy Reid was the coach. Cooper is one of those seven.

One of Thomas' points was that the Eagles have only one African-American position coach, running backs coach Duce Staley. Tight ends coach Ted Williams was recently transferred to the scouting staff. Staley and Williams were with the Eagles before Kelly was hired.

Of Kelly's 23 assistant coaches, seven are African-American.

Finally, when Kelly became head coach of the Eagles, he inherited Foles and Michael Vick as 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.

Kelly is caught in a trap. It was set when he decided not to release Cooper after the racially inflammatory episode in 2013. It has been sprung by public remarks from Thomas, Smith and now McCoy. Kelly has declined to comment on this latest incident. That might be easier than trying to challenge the perception that's out there, but silence only seems to make the trap stickier and harder to escape.