EAGLES SAFETY Patrick Chung spoke to a group of up-and-coming NFL coaches and personnel people yesterday at Penn's Wharton School about what the modern athlete expects from coaches and management.
"Be honest. Respect. Have a relationship, because we're all in it together, man," Chung said afterward, when reporters asked about the panel session, part of a 3-day NFL Career Development Symposium. "We're here to play against the other team. We can't have fights inside . . . Respect, relationship, honesty."
Chung, 25, might not have known why NFL vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent wanted him, or someone like him, to interact on the panel with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff in the session moderated by Vincent, a former Pro Bowl corner for the Eagles. Vincent explained to reporters that he wanted a guy who exemplified today's NFL majority - a member of what Vincent called "the most distracted generation," thanks to social media, an "edge guy" who might not be as eager to please an authority figure as Vincent and many of his peers were a generation ago.
Vincent said when he approached Eagles players' assistant Karen Gerstle and director of player services Harold Carmichael for an Eagle to participate, "I didn't want the typical guy that's doing all the community outreach, I wanted the modern, majority, I needed en 'edge' kind of player . . . He came here with his golf shirt that he just got from the [NovaCare] facility on his way over here. He had his earrings in. But that's the reality. I also had [Philly native McClain], who came in with his suit and tie, but [Chung] is the majority."
Vincent said Chung was everything Vincent hoped to show the seminar attendees, guys the league envisions as possible future head coaches and general managers.
"Players don't mind being coached hard, they just want to be respected," Vincent said, when asked his take on Chung's message. "You heard that theme throughout . . . I think Patrick said it best. It is what we see in this modern-day athlete: 'I don't mind you getting on me, just don't get on me in front of my peers. You can say whatever you want to say about me, take me behind the woodshed, you can do whatever you want, just don't embarrass me in front of my peer group.'
"He didn't say, 'I want to be coached soft.' He just said, based off where this generation of athletes is coming from, that's something that, you're challenging someone's manhood [when you criticize in public].
"He was open, he was honest - brutally honest. And he was very transparent . . . It was real."
Vincent played in the NFL as recently as 2006, with the Redskins. He turns 42 next month. Are players really that different than they were when he was in his prime, a decade or so back?
"[Today's player is] a much different athlete personalitywise than what football has seen at any other time, because of social media, because of the sense of entitlement," Vincent said. "Most of the time, this athlete has never had to address conflict head-on. He's never lost. Now we raise our kids, they finish eighth place, they still get a ribbon . . . it's important for future head coaches, for future GMs to really understand the importance of communication."
Chung has some experience with tough coaches, having spent his entire pro career in New England with Bill Belichick before signing with the Eagles as a free agent this offseason. Chung, a starter since 2010 when healthy, was benched for the playoffs last season.
Vincent said Chung told the seminar, "Tell me the way it is, don't beat around the bush. If I can't play, I can't play."
New Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who was the offensive coordinator at Oregon when Chung starred there, presumably thinks Chung can play. Chung was asked what Belichick and Kelly have in common.
"They want to win, man. They're almost the same. They want to win, and they're going to do everything possible to win," Chung said. "They're going to bring the best out of the player. They're going to make sure you're mentally, first, and then physically tough, and then we're going to go from there. [They're going to have] a good group of guys in the locker room, not a bunch of prima donnas with egos, just some good guys who like to have fun and play ball."
Chung said his advice for Eagles unfamiliar with Kelly is "just work hard. If you work hard, we're going to be fine. If you feel you've made it and you don't have to work, then we're going to have some problems . . . the best guy is going to play . . . and we're going to be a family about it. There's not going to be any arguments, 'I should be playing,' or 'This guy shouldn't be playing.' Just be quiet, and we're going to win together."
The NFL filled 15 head-coaching and GM openings this offseason without managing to hire one minority group member, despite the Rooney Rule mandating minority interviews for coaching jobs.
"It is alarming, from my standpoint, because I know the number of credible candidates who happen to be minorities in our industry," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, when asked about the matter following the career development seminar at Wharton.
Teams seem to be hiring offensive-minded head coaches now, but for some reason, a lot of the African-American assistants work on the defensive side. Tomlin, a wide receiver at William and Mary, was asked why he entered NFL coaching as a secondary coach.
"Because I knew there was a stronger possibility for me to ascend within our business on the defensive side of the ball, to be straightforward with you," Tomlin said. "If you look at those who have come before me, largely, they have been defensive coaches. I recognized that as a young coach.
"It was my reality, 15 years ago, from my perception. I don't know if that's the case anymore. I'm sure that in some ways, it is. But the reality is that these subjects we're talking about need to continually be discussed."
The Eagles worked out former Cowboys running back Felix Jones yesterday, a source confirmed. Lots of fans wanted the Birds to draft Jones out of Arkansas in 2008 and were dismayed when Dallas took him in the second round. Jones never really became the consistent all-around weapon observers envisioned, at least partly because of injuries. The Eagles didn't draft a running back last month and could use a versatile veteran role player, if Jones checks out medically . . . A source confirmed the team did not renew the contract of pro personnel director Louis Riddick. It seems likely Riddick's successor will be someone with whom new player personnel vice president Tom Gamble has history.