The firing of Chip Kelly by Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers, marks the best move he’s made for the franchise since hiring Jim Harbaugh.
Following Kelly out the door is General Manager Trent Baalke, who had been with the team for nearly a decade. The sweeping changes for the 49ers comes as a surprise, considering Kelly is under contract for two more years and the 49ers are still on the hook for former coach, Jim Tomsula’s salary. But after the 49ers endured a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak, en route to a dismal 2-14 season, a change was needed and Kelly just had to go.
His hiring was a poor choice in the first place, so hopefully York will use this experience and find a more player-oriented coach moving forward. Kelly was highly criticized during his final season in Philadelphia as he played the entire game in the two-minute drill. It worked during his first season as gun-slinger Nick Foles threw for 27 touchdowns versus 2 interceptions. The Eagles had a potent offense but even games where they would blow out their opponents, the opposing team would lead in time of possession.
Kelly’s offense would score quickly, forcing to the defense to get back on the field quickly. The two-minute huddle offense is better suited for the college game because 85 players are allowed on an active roster (in the NFL it is 53). Players were exhausted by the start of the second half. As the season wore on, this became more turbulent and the Eagles made an early exit in the playoffs. Instead of changing his strategy, Kelly continued with the same tendencies in the following two seasons and he was fired before the final game in his third year.
Kelly began his 49ers tenure using quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the two-minute drill. This was a terrible idea considering Gabbert had a career QBR below 50 and the 49ers wide receivers consisted of veteran Torrey Smith surrounded by a bunch of rookies. Even after switching quarterbacks to Colin Kaepernick, the fast-pace play was ineffective due to a weak offensive line and the immobility of Kaepernick. It felt as if Kaepernick was constantly bullied during games as he could never find a rhythm throughout the season.
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All in all, since returning to the starting lineup, Kaepernick proved to be worthy of a season chance in the Bay Area. In 12 games, he threw for 16 touchdowns against 4 interceptions and over 2200 yards. His completion rate of 59.2% hoovered around his career average. He also rushed for an average of 6.8 yards on 69 attempts and 2 touchdowns.
Going into the season, the 49ers faithful were wondering if Kaepernick had played his final downs in the gold and red uniform. With the proper guidance and a blocking offensive line, Kaepernick can still be an effective NFL quarterback. He needed this year to get his body back into playing form after sustaining numerous injuries and three surgeries a season ago. The arm speed and quickness is certainly there and another offseason of training can bring Kaepernick back to the top.
But just as questions lingered about Kelly’s future, the same does for Kaepernick. He spent the entire season seated during the playing of the national anthem, claiming racial oppression by law enforcement. There’s no doubt he can still play, but midway through the season the 49ers restructured his contract so Kaepernick could become a free agent. Do the 49ers pick him up or would another team want to deal with the backlash Kaepernick’s protest brought to the national media? Or does Kaepernick simply retire to be a voice for change?
One thing’s for sure is it won’t be with Chip Kelly.