Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has been hired by the San Francisco 49ers, the team announced on Thursday afternoon. The NFL Network is reporting that the deal is for five years.
Kelly takes over a 49ers team that is coming off a miserable 5-11 campaign, its worst record since 2007. Thanks to a slew of unexpected retirements and free agent departures last winter, the roster is badly depleted on both sides of the ball. That led to a thoroughly disappointing season in which San Francisco suffered a league-high nine losses by double-digits.
The fallout from that disaster of 2015 was the firing of head coach Jim Tomsula after a brief one-year stint as the top guy in San Francisco. The 49ers are banking on Kelly to quickly revive a franchise that has taken a steep fall since playing in three straight NFC title games (and a Super Bowl) from 2011-13.
Kelly was a surprise casualty of the Eagles just after a Week 16 game against Washington. Kelly left his job at Oregon to join the Eagles in 2013, and many felt that he would get more than three seasons to turn the team around.
However, Kelly hasn't seemed like a favorite of the players. Furthermore, given his control over personnel, many of the team's failings in recent seasons can be attributed to him. He got rid of players like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, bringing in players like DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso and Sam Bradford, who have not found much success.
In San Francisco, Kelly will not have that same kind of control over personnel, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. General manager Trent Baalke will maintain his power over the roster, while Kelly will stick to coaching.
The big question looming over the team -- and one that is front and center now for Kelly -- is what to do with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The fifth-year player was benched last November following a string of underwhelming performances, and ultimately ended up on the season-ending injured reserve list with a non-throwing shoulder injury, which required surgery.
It was believed that the team would either release him or trade Kaepernick this offseason. However, now that Kelly is at the helm, there is speculation that they could keep the 28-year-old dual-threat signal caller and hope that Kelly's offense represents a better fit for Kaepernick's skill set. Blaine Gabbert performed adequately as his replacement, but his ceiling is thought to be much lower than Kaepernick's.
As he plotted potential moves & his next @NFL stop, Chip Kelly was trying to figure out how to trade for/sign Colin Kaepernick. No need now.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 14, 2016
The hiring of the offensive-minded Kelly appears to be a good fit for a 49ers offense that ranked last or next-to-last in nearly every major statistical category in 2015. Their 238 points scored were the fewest by any team since the 2012 Chiefs. The 49ers and the Cowboys were the only NFL teams this season that didn't reach 30 points in any game.
One factor that may have swayed Kelly to joining the 49ers is that the team hired Tom Gamble last year as a senior personnel executive. Gamble worked side-by-side with Kelly in Philadelphia.
Kelly was abruptly fired by the Eagles after leading them to a 6-9 record this season, their first sub-.500 campaign since 2012. Philly was 4-4 at the mid-point and looked primed to compete for a playoff spot in a weak NFC East, but then collapsed with five losses in their next seven games.
Kelly's first two seasons in Philly were much more successful. He engineered back-to-back 10-win campaigns, including a playoff berth in 2013. However, it all came crashing down this year as many of his headline-grabbing offseason moves backfired. In total, he has a 26-21 record as head coach in the NFL.
The rumors of Kelly's firing started November with reports that players were unhappy with the coach, as well as DeMarco Murray going as far as sitting next to Jeff Lurie on a flight home to discuss his concerns. Safety Malcolm Jenkins questioned if the team had enough accountability, and Philly fans were quick to fill The Linc with boos.
He wasn't able to convince the team in Philadelphia that he could be a winning coach, nor a likable one, but he did have hints of success throughout his first NFL job.
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