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I'll go on record to say I am on the fence about the Chip Kelly hire as the 19th head coach of the 49ers. On one hand, I have a little excitement like I had when Harbaugh was hired. On the other, it is hard to ignore the dumpster fire of the 2015 season Kelly had in Philadelphia. Top that with rumors about his personality and you can see where there can be some trepidation on my part as a fan. Even though I like to subscribe to the adage of "Where there is smoke there is fire," since I don't know Kelly personally, I will be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and be objective about him as a coach until he proves me otherwise.
Being totally objective, Kelly is bringing his offense to the NFC West, a division that has proven over the last few years to be a very tough division to play against and to play in. While Kelly was very successful, it could be argued that the NFC East hasn't been the most competitive of divisions over the past three years compared to the NFC West. Over the past three seasons, the NFC East had a combined record of 86-106. The NFC West over that time was 114-78 over the same time period, including the 2014 season where the NFC West played the NFC East and compiled a 12-4 record against NFC East Teams. Of that 12-4 record, the Eagles did contribute winning one game against the NFC West, during week 5 against the St. Louis Rams, in which they held a 34-7 lead that was cut to 34-28 with a little over four minutes left in the game. In his three years in Philadelphia, he was 2-4 against NFC West teams, beating the Rams and the Cardinals each one time.
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Looking at the sample of Kelly's games against the NFC West shows us a couple of things offensively. The below stats are averages per game over his six games versus the teams in the NFC West.
|Third Down Conversions||39.5%||44%|
What does this all mean? The likely answer is nothing because it is impossible to compare the Eagles players to the players on the 49ers. However, it does provide some insight how an Eagles team with some elite talent on the offensive side of the ball performed against teams that excel at defense (at least in some facet) across the board in the NFC West. Over the past three seasons, the average rank of NFC West defenses has been 11th in the league and that even takes into account the drastic drop off by the 49ers this season from 5th to 29th. Average Eagles defense over the past three seasons was 23rd in the league.
Again I ask, what does this all mean? It is hard to quantify because so much changes year to year. We do know that Kelly's offense can put a lot of pressure on his defense to be on the field more. For 49ers players that are holdovers from the 2015 season, that shouldn't be too much of an issue because the 49ers seemed to specialize in three and outs last year. However, one has to have a bit of caution when playing teams with better than average defenses because letting them rest all game just makes it that harder to keep the game close in the 4th quarter. One good thing the 49ers have going for them, at least defensively, is they are young.
That all being said, of all the coaching candidates that were available to the 49ers, Chip Kelly is clearly the most talented and in touch with where the NFL is going offensively. Outside of Adam Gase or Sean Payton, he was likely the best choice for the team wanting an offensive minded coach. If he can be paired with a dominant defense, this team could be scary as it has a lot of good young weapons.