Chip Kelly Never Had a Chance with the 49ers in 2016
The San Francisco 49ers will be on their fourth head coach in as many years, after firing one-and-done head coach Chip Kelly at the conclusion of the 2016 season. And Kelly was doomed from the start.
Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly never had a chance.
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The one-and-done head coach saw his brief tenure with the Niners come to an end just about as quickly as it started — less than a year removed from his January 2016 hire date.
No, we’re not talking Xs and Os, per se. And plenty of pundits and analysts will continue to doubt whether or not Kelly’s system can ever work at the NFL level.
Even if Kelly was the best-scheming head coach in the business, this job was doomed from the get go.
Of course, the problems stemmed from the top. CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke and the variety of cast members supporting them already had a reputation for ousting head coaches (see: Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula). Patience wore thin between these two key players.
And it wore just a bit thinner with York, who also dismissed Baalke in the same front-office cuts.
But there was the problem — the ability to work together.
Baalke couldn’t work with Harbaugh, and Baalke won. And, apparently, Baalke couldn’t work with Kelly either. Just ask Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (h/t David Fucillo of Niners Nation).
Kelly understood this was a major risk for him to take. So he’s not completely blameless in this whole situation. Yet it makes sense Kelly wanted to get his career back on track after an ugly finish to what initially looked like a promising tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 49ers Took Chip Kelly when No One Else Would
Keep this in mind. It’s important.
No other NFL team offered Kelly a head-coaching position last offseason. His reputation for being hard on his players and, well, generally disliked preceded him.
And yet the 49ers bit, hoping Kelly would be the spark to rejuvenate a scuffling offense and breathe some fire and vigor into what had turned into a downtrodden team during Tomsula’s lone season.
Kelly appeared to learn his lesson, at least according to the players. Many of the Niners themselves came out in support of Kelly after his firing (h/t CSN Bay Area).
So maybe Kelly learned his lesson with the guys on the field.
Still, the 2-14 record speaks for itself. Again, Kelly isn’t blameless here.
Kelly vs. Trent Baalke
Remember when Baalke referred to Kelly as, “the same guy every day” back in August?
This was an obvious slight against former head coach Jim Harbaugh. And yet the Kelly-Baalke relationship turned nearly as sour as that between Baalke and Harbaugh.
There was the report Kelly wanted now-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the NFL Draft. But Baalke said no. It wasn’t that unfamiliar with how Baalke didn’t want 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but Harbaugh got his way.
Baalke wasn’t going to be burned twice.
And there were the obvious potshots Kelly took at Baalke too — comments about the roster’s depth and not being able to make enough moves to create some sort of turnaround this season.
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Yes, Kaepernick was involved in that situation too. Kelly was one of Kap’s biggest supporters this season. Baalke? Not so much.
It’s possible this dissent between the former head coach and former GM was a catalyst for what took place in Santa Clara this season.
There’s likely more.
So Kelly was doomed. Had York elected to keep Baalke around for one more year or so, Kelly’s job still wasn’t going to be safe. And York wasn’t going to let Kelly win out in the end either.
No, Kelly was indeed doomed from the start.