After multiple mistakes and suspensions, most people wrote the young man off. He had been suspended for an entire season, he was an upperclassman, and he had just made too many mistakes for Chip to tolerate anything further. Think I'm talking about Alonso? Think again...One game into his Senior season LeGarrette Blount's career appeared over. He had been in trouble before: fisticuffs in practice, failing to maintain weight, and so it went. Everybody knew the Bosie State debacle was the last straw and everybody was left to lament the season that might have been. Then something changed.
If nothing else Chip Kelly is a smart man. The son of an attorney, he presumably grew up in a household that valued insight and analytical reasoning. So, when Kelly learned through the help of counselors that Blount's issue was not decision making, but anger management, Kelly was willing to re-examine a young man's future based on a deeper understanding of the situation. Even at the cost of his own public image. It was true that Blount still threw that punch, but the why of the situation had changed. When Blount began responding to those he was working with, Kelly began to reconsider the year long suspension.
Kelly took a lot of heat for this, but who now would say Kelly was wrong? Blount's much talked about "plan" eventually lead to his reinstatement, and we were all told about how he had reformed himself. Most of us at the time had our doubts about how long that reformation would last. Yet, he survived a crazy NFL rookie season which began with an agreement to play in San Fransisco, followed by being cut by Tennessee, and eventually landing in Tampa Bay. Through all of this Blount kept his cool and remained focused. He even managed a 1,000 yard season. In hindsight Kelly was right, Blount did reform himself.
Last year Kiko Alonso made a terrible, dumb, rock head, immature decision to drive drunk. The internet was ablaze: fans called him an idiot, rival fans called him a criminal, even sports writers had to shake their head at the timing of Alonso's DUI (hours after Kelly had given a stern public announcement that behavioral issues would stop immediately). The odd timing of the incident was merely a footnote at the time, now it appears telling.
Suspension served, Alonso showed up to spring practice looking for redemption. He found it. He fought his way to the top of the depth chart, capping his camp off with a breakthrough performance at the spring game. Beat writers gave him praise, his coaches give him the thumbs up, and the depth chart gave him Casey's Matthews job. This was a young man who wanted to do the right thing. Then he was arrested for burglary, out of the blue.
Much like the DUI of a year ago, the most shocking thing concerning Alonso's arrest was the timing. Why on earth would he do this now? Burglary? What was he thinking? But that's the rub, he wasn't thinking at all, he was blacked out drunk. This isn't Masoli breaking into a frat house and stealing computer equipment (bad decision), this is a young man with a disease.
Alonso's poor decision was not burglary, it was taking that first drink. We have all met that person: perfectly reasonable and hardworking, the kind of person you can trust until their lips touch a bottle, then all bets are off. The question for Coach Kelly is if this new information warrants leniency in the same way Blount's anger management issues lead to a path to redemption rather than a path out of the locker room.
The first step towards redemption might have already come to pass. With an eye witness account, broken in door, and a sleeping Alonso, the burglary charge was an open and shut case. But the District Attorney let him off with trespass and criminal mischief, provided he swear off alcohol and complete a substantial substance abuse program. In the case of Kiko Alonso the courts have already ruled: this is a good kid with a disease/problem; he is not a thug.
Chip has yet to issue his own ruling on Kiko. But, when you consider Kelly's actions in the past when a legitimate underlying condition exists, it would not be out of character for "Big Balls Chip" to make yet another gutsy call. One that would put redemption and rehabilitation ahead of punishment. A popular decision? Not a chance. But if we know anything about Coach Kelly it is that he does not care about what's popular.