Riley Cooper: A Disliked Player on a Well-Liked Team

Chip Kelly not only turned the product on the field around when he took over the Eagles last season, he also turned the perception of the team around. Fans had become jaded with Andy Reid’s Eagles. The coach was a black hole of charisma and his system was increasingly dull. Chip has been new and fresh. Even the controversial move of releasing DeSean Jackson last season, Chip Kelly has made the Eagles as well-liked as they’ve been in nearly a decade.

LeSean McCoy has hit his speed bumps, but he’s still one of the most exciting running backs in the NFL. Jeremy Maclin is having a terrific bounceback year after a tough injury. Connor Barwin is this quirky hipster guy with a whole lot more sacks than anyone expected to get out of him. Hell, Mark Sanchez might even get over his butt fumble history at this rate.

There’s an outlier here, and boy, is it a doozy. What’s 6’3”, has long hair, and is mediocre on a good day? Why, that would be Riley Cooper. You might remember Cooper from his time spouting racial slurs at a Kenny Chesney concert. He was a guy that people suggested the Eagles cut outright after the incident, mostly because he isn’t really that good of a football player.

Cooper might not even be an Eagle right now if it wasn’t for Nick Foles. For whatever reason, the tall receiver and the unexpected quarterback had chemistry. Cooper brought in 8 TDs last season (7 from Foles), leading to the Eagles rewarding him with a 5-year / $22.50 million contract. Cooper can actually outdo his receptions from last year with 9 more catches, but he’s a ways off from his high of 835 yards (he’s at 425 at the moment). The Eagles expected more from a guy they gave a good-sized contract to, especially after they released one of the fastest wideouts in the league.

His snaps are decreasing. One would gather that it’s due to the fact that Riley isn’t as talented as Jeremy Maclin and getting outplayed by tall rookie Jordan Matthews, who has been hitting it off over the middle with the Sanchize. Matthews has already surpassed Cooper’s career highs in catches and yards with 50 grabs for 635 yards. He’s on his way to surpassing those 8 touchdowns too with 6 of his own. Sure, you and I can infer that on our own, but nooooo, not Cooper. Cooper’s got his own theory, according to this Tim McManus piece over at Birds 24/7:

“Maclin’s trying to get a contract so he’s probably not going to try and come out of the game,” Cooper said, later adding: “Hopefully, Maclin gets this thing done and he’ll probably be subbing just as much.”

Cooper would later go on to say that he was joking, but it says a lot that people took the comment so seriously out of the gate. Most people don’t think he was joking. There’s some resentment behind that statement, backed up further by his “LOL just kiddin’ fellas!” retort.

Maclin is a much better player. He’s everything you could ask for from a wide receiver. He’s not slacking on potential interceptions. He’s hauling in everything thrown his way. He’s not a big talker, but he’s fierce. If someone messes with a teammate, Maclin’s not afraid to step up. He deserves every single snap he gets.

If Cooper should be salty with anyone, it’s himself. He had a prime chance this year to show his stuff in one of the NFL’s most exciting offenses. Instead, he’s sweating as he sees Josh Huff’s snap counts increase. He looks bitterly at the success of teammates. You don’t have to be amazing to be a beloved Eagle, but it sure helps if you keep your mouth shut and work hard. Cooper isn’t doing either. Riley Cooper climbed back up after having one too many at that Kenny Chesney concert, now he’s burying himself again.

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