Graham To Chip: I Got Your Back

Eagles trying to make one final stand.

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Chip Kelly mentioned Brandon Graham as one of the veterans he seeks out when he wants to take the temperature of the locker room, listing him alongside the likes of Connor Barwin, Malcolm Jenkins,  DeMeco Ryans, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters.

“Chip does a great job as far as trying to keep us together and keeping in contact with the guys that…[have] a voice, and that will lead this team that people respect,” said Graham. “I think Chip is doing a great job, we just have to hone in all together and just make sure we stay close.”

That’s been one of the challenges in recent days after a pair of startling losses to the Bucs and Lions that has tested the foundation of this team and the relationships inside the locker room. Part of the internal strain was tied to uncertainty regarding the future of the head coach. To help stem the tide, Kelly reportedly addressed the college reports, and told the players Tuesday morning that “as long as they have me here, I’m here.”

Graham, for his part, tried to offer similar assurances to Kelly, who has come under some serious scrutiny of late.

“I just tried to reach out to him before he do, let him know that I ain’t quit on him. I just tried to make sure that he knows that…I see what the media try to do to him, and I let him know that I got his back no matter what.”

Based on conversations with players after practice, Kelly has changed little in terms of approach this week. And that’s being largely viewed as a good thing. Stories have been shared about experiences at previous stops, where coaches would panic amid a slump and make wholesale changes which would only dig the team deeper into a hole. Kelly, it appears, is staying the course as he said he would.

Not that players think everything should remain exactly the same. Malcolm Jenkins is looking for a higher degree of accountability, and believes the coaching staff can help with that by calling players out in a team setting. Graham doesn’t agree that it has to be in front of everyone, but thinks turning up the heat can only help.

“If I have a real problem, I will go to that person, man to man, and tell them. And if that person is not listening then you go to a higher authority as far as coaches and be like, ‘Look man, I talked to this guy, he’s not trying to hear what I gotta say. I hope his mindset is to win like us.’ That’s when you start having concerns, when people don’t care.”

Has that happened?

“No, I haven’t seen people that don’t care. But what I’m saying, when you’re policing people, that’s usually the problems we come across is people not being able to be coachable. But I don’t see that on our team. I think that we just need to do more of it in terms of, when people are doing bad, just light a fire under him. It don’t hurt to tell somebody when they’re wrong. Because when they’re doing good people pat them on the back real easy, so you should be able to hear the criticism, and that’s for everybody.”

Speaking of criticism, Graham was asked if it stings more when former players are outspoken about the current team.

“No, because people ain’t playing with us, nobody in this locker room. People can have all kinds of stuff to say but they’re not in here. They did it before, yeah, but they’re not in this actual situation. They don’t know what’s going on. They know what they used to know, but the league has changed. We can’t worry about people that are talking on the outside. So no, that don’t sting me,” he said.

Does it make you shake you head?

“I shake my head when they try to bury people, it’s like beating a dead horse. It’s like, man, how much more can you keep getting on them? It’s like, let’s try to help. If you really cared, if you’re a former player, if you care about this organization, let’s try to figure it out, let’s try to help, let’s not try to bash it. But I understand people have a job to do so, that just is what it is. That’s why I say we’re not worried  about what people are talking about outside this because nobody is going through it with us.”

The Eagles are attempting a rally. With New England on deck and external doubt at an all-time high, this group is trying to fend off the criticism — or maybe use it — to make one last go at being a productive, cohesive unit.

“All of us, we all need to get better and we all know that,” said Graham. “And we are going to stay together which we will anyway. I don’t think anybody is giving up on each other. We just have to make sure we do it now because time is running out and we can’t keep talking about this. I promise you I don’t want to walk around Philly knowing that we had a good team and I gotta hear it from all these fans on how bad we did this year. I’m trying to change that, and this week can change a lot of thoughts about us.”