5 potential replacements for Chip Kelly in San Francisco
The San Francisco 49ers are reportedly going to fire head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke. Here are five replacements for Kelly in 2017.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the San Francisco 49ers are expected to fire both head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke at the end of the 2016 NFL season. The 49ers regressed in 2016 in their first year under Kelly. Entering Week 17, the 2016 49ers were only able to beat the Los Angeles Rams twice for their two wins on the season.
If 49ers owner Jed York really does pull the plug on the Kelly experiment gone awry, here are five potential head coaching candidates the 49ers organization should consider for the vacancy.
Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons had a strong 2016 NFL season with a historically dominant offense. Atlanta scored over 500 points in their first 15 games of the 2016 NFL campaign. The Falcons won the NFC South for the first time since 2012 and will begin their trek to Super Bowl 51 in January.
A major reason for the Falcons’ rise to prominence in 2016 has been the outstanding job of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Atlanta was Shanahan’s fourth stop as an NFL offensive coordinator (Houston, Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta), but he finally put it all together with the Falcons to honestly push for a head coaching job.
The Shanahan zone blocking scheme will do wonders in the San Francisco ground game. Shanahan has shown that he can get the most out of his quarterbacks, everybody from Matt Schaub to Robert Griffin III to Brian Hoyer to Matt Ryan. Whomever the 49ers decide to trot out at quarterback will be better because of Shanahan in 2017.
There are three major snags for Shanahan going to be the next head coach for the 49ers: 1.) San Francisco is a grease fire that could consume a first-time head coach. Not ideal for Shanahan. 2.) Shanahan’s personality may not coalesce with the Bay Area media all that well. He can be condescending like Kelly and Jim Harbaugh were. Think Mike Nolan. 3.) Shanahan will get better job offers than San Francisco. The Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars are better landings spots for this first-time head coach.
Former Head Coach, Los Angeles Rams
If the 49ers need anything, they need stability. Former Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher could definitely provide that for York in San Francisco. Fisher until 2016 would have either his Rams teams and before that his Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans at least middle of the pack with him in charge.
Is Fisher going to get the 49ers to a Super Bowl? No way, but the 49ers have to realize that they might be the furthest from contention in the NFL. Maybe only the New York Jets are as bad off as they are and San Francisco lost to the Jets at home in overtime.
Fisher won’t make the horrid 49ers offense better. Then again, neither did Kelly in his one year in Santa Clara. What Fisher will do is give the 49ers bite both defensively and on special teams. He knows those two sides of the ball very well.
In a weird way, York and Fisher kind of need each other. They could pair and bring in a general manager that can exist as a triumvirate in the Bay Area to get this NFC West team out of its perpetual quagmire. Fisher will coach up the defense, but he has to have an offensive coordinator come with him who understands the nuances of a 21st Century NFL offense.
Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
Like Shanahan, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could get a few offers on this head coaching carousel in January. McDaniels has reinvented himself as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL in New England after failing as the Denver Broncos head coach.
He has shown in his second stint in Foxborough that he can adapt to adverse conditions on his offense. McDaniels successfully developed an offense with three starting quarterbacks this season, integrated a new tight end into the offense, and helped get its offensive line back on track after failing in 2015.
He looks to be keen on player development and in-game planning. McDaniels gets the most out of his offensive players in New England and might actually be ready for his second stint as an NFL head coach. He’s primed for a coaching job in 2017.
Like Shanahan, there are three reasons that McDaniels might be reticent to take the job in San Francisco: 1.) He doesn’t have the luxury to fail again as a head coach. Denver was a disaster and San Francisco is not a good entry point for a head coaching candidate on his second chance. 2.) Are we sure that McDaniels knows personnel? He could bring a guy with Patriots roots in the scouting department with him. That’s a major caveat that York may not agree to. 3.) McDaniels’ would take the Jaguars job if given it. He went to college with Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell. Expect to be a finalist for that gig.
Head Coach, Stanford Cardinal
Besides consistency and a clue about how to run a pro-style offense, San Francisco needs an adult in the coaching department. Why not target the best molder of young men in California in Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw?
Seriously. Shaw would be an outstanding hire for the 49ers. At his alma mater Stanford, Shaw has taken what Jim Harbaugh started in Palo Alto, improved it, and made it his own. The Cardinal play a consistent brand of football that can annually contend for Pac-12 Championships, despite the academic rigors of Stanford University.
Shaw runs a pro-style offense at Stanford and knows a ton of NFL coaches from his time as an assistant before joining Harbaugh’s staff with the San Diego Toreros. No doubt that Shaw can build a strong offense with the 49ers. He also would have a two-year advantage in drafting personnel. Shaw knows all the top college players that will be draft eligible in 2017 and 2018 from his time leading Stanford.
The only holdup in getting Shaw to leave college and go pro is that Stanford might be the better job Shaw could stay on the Farm as long as he likes. York pulled the plug on his coach the last three seasons. If York had it together, Shaw would be the perfect head coaching candidate for the 49ers. This is why you don’t fire your head coach after one season. Candidates like Shaw will more than likely turn the offer or interview down.
Defensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the NFL head coaching carousel about to really get into motion, one guy to keep an eye on is Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Smith helped turn around the Buccaneers defense in his first year on the job. Before that, Smith was the greatest head coach in Atlanta Falcons history, taking the NFC South franchise to four NFC Playoffs.
Smith is outstanding in both game planning and in winning the locker room. Besides in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, Smith had success as the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator and on his brother-in-law’s staff with the Brian Billick era of the Baltimore Ravens.
Not only does Smith know defense, he is aware enough to know how to attract top-tier offensive coaching talent. His offensive coordinators in Atlanta included Bill Musgrave, Mike Mularkey, and Dirk Koetter. Terry Robiskie was his wide receivers coach.
There are only three criticisms of Smith: clock management, overly intricate defensive schemes, and is only as good as his locker room allows him to be. That being said, Smith would be the best hire the 49ers could get. Expect Smith and McDaniels to be finalists for the Jaguars job. San Francisco would be extraordinarily lucky to get a coach the caliber of Smith in 2017. Whoever gets him in 2017 wins.
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