Chip Kelly should leave the 49ers and go back to college football
If you didn't watch the 49ers-Bears game Sunday at Soldier Field, consider yourself lucky.
The game was a sloppy mess in the snow between two teams that are terrible on clear, 68-degree days.
Matt Barkley (seriously, he's still in the league) started for the Bears and with the help of three touchdowns from Jordan Howard, Chicago won 26-6.
Just another loss for Chip Kelly's 49ers.
His replacement, Blaine Gabbert, didn't fare much better, going 4-for-10 for 35 yards while being sacked for a safety.
Sunday's embarrassing loss to another bad team might represent a possible historic low-point for the once-proud 49ers franchise.
Kelly should take that as a sign to get out of Santa Clara as soon as possible.
It's time for Chip Kelly to go back to college football.
The shine on Kelly around the NFL has already worn away. That innovative, mad scientist persona bestowed upon him at Oregon — that reputation that was going to revolutionize the NFL — is gone.
Kelly's tenure in Philadelphia labeled him a toxic asset — he was a micromanager hellbent on seizing power in the organization. He made far more enemies than friends and was fired toward the end of his third season, despite a 26-21 record.
The 49ers were the only NFL team that wanted him, and they sold him on an opportunity to reform that football genius reputation. In Kelly's introductory news conference, he often mentioned the energy of innovation in the areas that surround the 49ers' Silicon Valley home. The subtext was easy to read: “I was handcuffed in Philadelphia – we're going to disrupt the marketplace here.”
Clearly, that hasn't happened.
It's not going to happen, either. Kelly works for the most inept organization in the NFL. At least the Jaguars and Browns have a plan and are trying something — the 49ers front office is aimless and too proud to admit they have no idea what they're doing.
This is a team that fired Jim Harbaugh for personal reasons, replaced him with Jim Tomsula, and then had the gall to compare the move to the Golden State Warriors firing Mark Jackson for Steve Kerr.
Oh, and Jed York, the team's CEO and mastermind behind that coaching swap, has maintained general manager and aspiring defensive backs coach Trent Baalke through now two coaching changes, despite his downright atrocious track record in the NFL Draft [his 2012 draft might be the worst in NFL history — it's netted a cumulative approximate value (AV) of 1.25 (Vance McDonald alone had an approximate value of 2 last season)] and free agency.
This 49ers team has perhaps a handful of quality NFL players, and it's not like the roster is chalk full of young, promising players who are learning on the job. They're terrible this year, and even if the team picks a true franchise-caliber quarterback in the NFL Draft, the best hope the 49ers have is that they're just downright bad next year. They can get back to the level of Tomsula's team.
There are already calls for Kelly's job in the Bay Area. While that's terribly unfair — he inherited an atrocious roster — the calls are only going to get louder after Sunday's loss to Chicago.
It's hard to see them quieting down anytime soon, either.
If Kelly stays with the 49ers, he'll enter the 2017 season on the hot seat — York is acutely attuned to the media buzz around the team and is in a disadvantageous position where he has to chase good PR — and he'll have to play that season out with another garbage roster.
What happens to Kelly's (perhaps undeserved) reputation as one of the most innovative coaches in football history if he keeps trying to turn around a franchise that is weighed down from the top?
Where would he land after he's fired? Even in the NFL, no team would want him after being fired twice.
If Kelly leaves now, he can go back to Oregon. The Ducks, who had not fired a coach in 40 years, would take him back in a heartbeat. Mark Helfrich, Kelly's former offensive coordinator who replaced him as Ducks head coach and was fired last week, even called to ask Kelly to come back and take over the team before his dismissal.
At Oregon, Kelly can work many of the same staff members who helped Oregon become a national powerhouse and the coolest college football program in the country. In many ways, he can pretend like the past four years never happened.
It's not working in San Francisco, and it's not going to work unless massive, unforeseeable changes are made, and there's an even-better-than-perfect landing spot waiting for him.
Yes, Kelly hates recruiting, but he must hate needlessly losing more. Right now, he's fighting a battle he can't win.
It's time to go back to college, Chip.