Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

49ers coaching search: The case for and against Chip Kelly

Al Sacco
Jan 8, 2016 at 8:36 AM17

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By now, I'm sure you've heard the news about the San Francisco 49ers officially meeting with Chip Kelly in regards to their vacant head coaching position. The response from fans, at least as far as I can tell, has been mixed. Initial reactions have ranged from cautious optimism to outright panic. I guess that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given the fact that Kelly is an extremely polarizing figure. In the end though, all that matters is whether or not Kelly is the right man for job. He could very well be a good fit. At the same time, he could also be a complete train wreck.

Let's start with the latter because...well, it's the 49ers. Kelly hasn't been painted in a very positive light by his former players or some people who have dealt with him. He's been described as power hungry, difficult, and even a racist. Harsh words, but that's what has been out there. After two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly positioned himself in such a way that he was able to get full control over personnel decisions, forcing the removal of then general manager Howie Roseman. With full say over the roster, Kelly began to ship players out and brought in new ones that he felt would better fit his scheme. The issue is, they didn't. The DeMarco Murray's and Sam Bradford's of the world appeared miscast from day one, and Philly limped to a 6-9 record before letting Kelly go prior to Week 17.

Given what we know, is someone as strong-willed as Kelly going to mesh with the controlling Jed York/Trent Baalke regime? Haven't we seen this movie before with Jim Harbaugh? The relationship could obviously turn ugly very quickly.

Then there's the issue of Kelly's coaching style, which calls for the offense to play fast. In fact, the Eagles ran their attack at such a rapid pace that they've been last in the league in time of possession in every season Kelly was their coach. Philadelphia held the ball on average for 26:03 from 2013-2015. That makes for a very tired defense most of the time, especially down the stretch run and come playoff time.

Kelly has some faults, no doubt about it, but what positives might he bring to the table?

Well, to begin to appreciate Chip Kelly, you have to separate the coach from the personnel man. In 2013, he took over an Eagles team coming off a 4-12 campaign and went on to win the NFC East at 10-6. The offense, while playing at a frantic pace, was dynamic in every sense of the word and finished second in total yards (6,676) and fourth in points scored (442). The Eagles maintained that rate the following season, and ultimately finished third in total yards (6,348) and third in points scored (474). Philly won 10 games again but missed out on the playoffs. They dropped to 12th (5830) and 13th (377) respectively in 2015, but that was in large part due to Kelly's blunders with the roster. Still, I think most who follow the 49ers would sign up for those numbers, given the fact that San Francisco was 31st in total yards (4860) and dead last in points scored (238).

Philly's defense did suffer however, never finishing higher than 17th in Kelly's three seasons. You could argue if that had more to do with the roster than the time of possession issue, but the Eagles were obviously much better on the other side of the ball. Kelly might have to tweak his approach a bit, and you have to wonder if he's learned his lesson in that regard.

Kelly is also astute in developing quarterbacks within his system, which is something the 49ers desperately need. He made Nick Foles look like a legitimate franchise option, as the mediocre signal caller went 14-4 as a starter with 40 touchdown passes to only 12 interceptions. Foles fell on his face with the St. Louis Rams this year, and was eventually benched. One would have to imagine the idea of Colin Kaepernick would intrigue Kelly, although it's unknown if that option is even on the table given what's transpired with management.

Oh, and speaking of management, could Baalke and Kelly really play nice together? I think they can, at least initially, and here's why. Baalke knows he's on his last legs. General managers almost never get more than two shots at a head coach, and this will be Baalke's third (you could argue Jim Tomsula was York's choice, but that's another conversation). Some of the young talent Baalke's brought in has been slow to develop, and the offense is a disaster both on paper and between the lines. Baalke is aware that he has to gel with the new head coach or he won't be around to see the next one. I think Kelly's relationship with Tom Gamble (who's the 49ers senior personnel executive) would help the marriage work, given the fact that the two were close in Philadelphia.

So what should you think about Chip Kelly? Tough to say. While the ceiling is high, there's also a basement level floor that could continue the team's tailspin. The 49ers are probably better off with a safer option like Hue Jackson, but if they lose out on him all bets are off. Never a dull moment.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Lucky Phil
    The only guy that feels worse than Jed this offseason is El Chapo. After escaping a life-time of captivity, his most memorable experience was the warm embrace of Sean Penn's fart like a cup of steaming ass. I can paint a picture with words can't I?
    Jan 15, 2016 at 10:53 AM
  • mbniner
    Well, I said it was a no-brainer.
    Jan 14, 2016 at 12:23 PM
  • mbniner
    Now that it seems to be down to Shanahan or Kelly the decision looks like a no-brainer. Shanahan is every thing that York/Baalke stated they were looking for. A great offensive mind that can win SBs and provide strong leadership to a young team. His only defects appear to be his Redskin years with RGlll. However, remember that RGlll had a direct line to that idiot Snyder and could dictate to Shanahan how he was used. Even then, Shanahan had him playing at top level until he was hurt. And the fool kept getting hurt by trying to run through LBs instead of running out of bounds or sliding. Meanwhile, Kelly has a ton of baggage from Philly, including loss of the locker room and accusations (maybe unjustified) of racial bias. His offenses also destroy his own defenses with so many 3 and outs. It's everything or nothing. Shanahan was my first choice last year and is still that this year.
    Jan 14, 2016 at 10:45 AM
  • P
    Its the same B*** . Jed does not like a coach having power. He has to hire someone he can control and not pay. Which means another couple of losing seasons. He might grow up some day. But I don't know if it will ever be enough ??? This is sad.
    Jan 11, 2016 at 6:49 PM
  • datakuan
    49ers screwed their team by firing mooch and hiring a nobody in NOlan, he and sing put alex smith under 7 ocs and now hes in theoplayoff with that old guy reid kicing the crap out of HOUston. ( walsh and couglan were old, Arians , blechek and carrol are old) Funny what a little good qb coaching can do for a franchise huh! Dont know why the newbies are so anit holmgren or shanahan , who has a young son whose an oc. anyone dream that they coudlnt do a better job then tomsula sing and Nolan???????
    Jan 9, 2016 at 7:17 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    The best scenario for the Niners is Hue J. goes to Cleveland. Hue is a big Kap fan. We need the Cle. pick to get J. Goff. We can spin a trade for our 1st, Kap and Reid for the Goff. This GM needs to be assertive and have a conviction behind his draft picks. Goff is the man. We don't need a wishy -washy GM who stock piles draft picks because he doesn't believe in his decisions. I also would like to recommend to Baalke he spend alot of time in the film room studying the FA's available this year. The draft is shit this year, the only way to jump start this team is in free agency. Good Luck Baalke, you have been blessed with an incompetent owner and football analysts that are dumbfounded about your talent to acquire draft picks like worthless baseball cards.
    Jan 9, 2016 at 10:08 AM
  • Sean
    Im really hoping the Niners get Hue Jackson as the new head coach. He has experience as a head man(8-8)w the raiders(that's a miracle w that team). Also he specializes in offence and he likes Kaepernick. In my opinion the team should do everything it can to salvage Kap. Just go to youtube and watch his highlights. It wasnt that long ago that people were calling him the best young qb out there. He is an African-american man with good leadership qualities,I think he will relate well with the players(unlike Chip kelly). I hope Ballke hires this man. There is some good young talent on this team, give Kap a solid line and a couple more weapons and tailor the offense to HIS strenghths!
    Jan 9, 2016 at 6:15 AM
  • Lucky Phil
    This just in ... Jed York is talking to Kim Jung-un to replace Trent Baalke as GM. When asked why he replied, "Kim Jong's background in building hydrogen bombs is unparalleled and I'm looking to blow this $#@$ up".
    Jan 8, 2016 at 5:33 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    This just in ... Jed York has just hired El Chapo as new HC of the S.F Forty-NIners. When asked by a reporter, "Does he speak English?" Jed's reply was "That's not important, We are looking for a guy that can tunnel his way out the deepest s#@$ hole in the western hemisphere. And we feel this is guy that can do it".
    Jan 8, 2016 at 5:22 PM
  • Jack Stewart
    The argument that Baalke could work with Kelly because if he doesn't he (Baalke) will be fired is backwards. If Kelly succeeds, in two years he will want Baalke's job, so Baalke would lose either way, just sooner or later. Kelly's saying he isn't interested in total control is a joke. Please, just say no to Chip Kelly. I don't want a grating, aloof, racist douche as our HC. There are a lot of coaches who can win games.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 5:19 PM
  • mbniner
    If he walks like a duck swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, he's a duck. It worked for Univ. of Oregon but it won't cut it the NFL. The guy is an ego-maniac whose my way- or -the- highway is a quick ticket out of town, just ask Philly. I can't believe that the Niners would have interviewed him except as a favor to Tom Gamble, a friend of Kelly. My choice is Shanahan, but there are a couple more out there who I think would be good. Please, not this guy.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 2:17 PM
  • RishkeshA
    Thanks Al, this team scored 238 points, during Alex Smith's nightmare rookie season they scored 239. I like Chip Kelly's offense. When Coach Walsh brought the WCO here many staunch NFL owners and coaches thought it was a gimmick. All that being said I respect the views of followers of the Zone so I guess I say No-Go with Kelly.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 1:56 PM
  • audik
    I've been a fan since YA Tittle was qb. If they hire Chip Kelly, I will root against them. With Mangini and Baalke, Kelly would complete the trio of the worst people in football. Harbaugh said it: You reap what you sow. Desean said it: Karma is a bitch. I can't root for a team run by petty, mean-spirited idiots.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:42 PM
  • Dan
    NOOOOO! I live near Philly. Chip Kelly was an ass ridden out of town by players, fans and the sports media. Took a winning team from Andy Reid, traded away playmakers, stocked the roster with an undersized line and talentless players through his drafts and turned them into losers. He sunk like a lead anchor. His success was due to Andy Reid's roster, not his. He signed Demarco Murray for 8 mil a season and ran him on sweeps or kept him on the bench when Murray is an A/B gap runner. They were more mediocre than the 49ers. BTW, listening to Philly Sports radio today they even called York a Dork for supposedly entertaining Chip Kelly. Jason Kelsey (C) stated on radio Kelly ran a pampered camp and practice with not enough discipline and accountability. BIG MISTAKE HIRING CHIP KELLY!
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:19 PM
  • Scott
    Totally agree Julio. In my mind the reason he struggled this year is collage coaches seem to get figured out pretty quickly in the NFL.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 9:20 AM
  • vince vinny
    He did pretty good his first few years as a NFL coach even Harbaugh had a bad year after a couple great seasons. Give him a shot.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 9:19 AM
  • Julio Jimenez
    Disastrous!!! Next year or two will be the same story. He is a College Coach not an NFL coach.
    Jan 8, 2016 at 9:09 AM

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