Actor. Personality. Public icon. Role model. Bradley Cooper is one of the proudest representatives of the city of Philadelphia. On top of the admirable roles he plays in society, Cooper keeps a firm grip on his roots, and never passes up the opportunity to put his city on top. Unfortunately, Riley Cooper has put the city at rock bottom far too often in the past five years.
Cooper’s struggles began in 2010, when the Philadelphia Eagles seemed to be on a magical run, led by the rejuvenated Michael Vick. Vick was an MVP candidate that season, and led the Eagles to the third seed in the NFC playoffs. Facing the prolific Green Bay Packer offense, the Eagles were down by five points with under two minutes remaining. After DeSean Jackson’s long catch and run moved the Eagles inside Packer territory, Vick went for broke. His end zone pass was tossed up at the top of Riley Cooper’s jump, giving he 6ft 4in receiver a chance to use his size to win the game. Instead of making a play on the ball, and at least forcing the defensive back to drop the eventual interception, Cooper simply watched the football like a deer in the headlights. Had he knocked the ball down, the Eagles may well have won the game, and would have knocked out the eventual Super Bowl champions.
After a quiet 2011 and 20112 seasons in which Cooper’s inactivity was the least of the Eagles’ problems, the former Florida Gator entered 2013 with a fresh start under coach Chip Kelly. Jeremy Maclin’s season-ending ACL tear meant Cooper would start the entire 2013 season, and had a chance to make a name for himself. Then, trouble reared its ugly head.
A video of Riley Cooper using racial slurs in a drunken state at a Kenny Chesney concert went viral during training camp, and clearly split the locker room. Michael Vick took a bold stance, and sided with Cooper in front of his coach and teammates. He, along with veteran Jason Avant and other team leaders stood up for Cooper, and forgave him for his mistake, allowing him to remain on the team amid speculation of a release. Still, many struggled to put the infraction behind them. “I know no one in Philadelphia is happy with me right now,” he said.
Fans seemed to move past the incident relatively quickly, as Cooper posted a stellar 2-13 season. With Nick Foles at quarterback, Cooper recorded 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 17.8 yards per catch. He became a reliable target in the red zone, scoring six times when inside the opponent 20-yard line. The Eagles rewarded him with a long-term contract, and eventually named him the starting receiver the following offseason when DeSean Jackson was released.
Fast forward a year, and Cooper’s production nosedived. Though he recorded more catches in 2014, Cooper’s average yards per reception dropped 7.3 yards. In addition, Cooper was involved with many quarterback interceptions this season, making mistakes on a few of them. The former Gator dropped some key passes last year, including a possible game-winning touchdown against the Cardinals. Though he still scored five touchdowns in the red zone, he was largely ineffective in the middle of the field. As a starting receiver, Cooperfailed to live up to expectations.
When asked by reporters why Jeremy Maclin stayed in for more plays than Cooper—since they are both starting wide receivers—Cooper foolishly answered by saying that Maclin was playing for a contract. Though he said he was simply “joking,” Cooper’s public relations idiocy again put a teammate, and the Eagles, in bad light.
Last week, Cooper was pictured on the Philadelphia Eagles February calendar, a month celebrating African American history. While it wasn’t his fault that his picture was assisted with February, he incident still revealed the fact that Cooper’s antics are still viewed as an issue. The fact that the Eagles made a statement means that they still view Cooper negatively for the mistake he made two summers ago. With a dip in production, off-the-field issues, and a relatively large cap number, Riley Cooper should be shipped out of Philly. Even though releasing him isn’t a feasible option—Cooper would cost $6.2 million in dead money to the Eagles if cut—the Eagles must use him as trade bait, and collect compensation in return for a player who simply hasn’t lived up to his job description.