What’s in store for the 49ers in the Chip Kelly era?
It doesn’t really need be said at this point, but the Jim Tomsula “era” was a disaster. Not all of this was completely his fault, as there was an exodus of talent on the defensive side of the ball that almost no team would have been able to overcome. Regardless, what’s done is done and there’s no point in wondering what might have been now. What is worth wondering about, however, is how Chip Kelly’s version of the Niners will look.
Kelly experienced some level of success in Philadelphia, in spite of the fact that he made some rather puzzling roster moves. Those moves were part of the reason the Eagles let him go, and full roster control is not something he will have in San Francisco. After the fractious split the Niners had with Harbaugh, Kelly’s relationship with the front office will be one to watch. It is imperative that he get along well with Trent Baalke and Jed York, which is easier said than done if recent history is any indicator. That said, the offense isn’t completely bereft of talent and could actually get back to being productive pretty quickly. Torrey Smith is a good fit for the fast-paced scheme, and any running back is going to put up at least decent numbers. Quarterback is a big question mark. I’m not convinced that Kelly is sold on Kaepernick, as he doesn’t have the accuracy Kelly likes in his quarterbacks and he could suffer a fate similar to that of Michael Vick in Philly. It is also doubtful Blaine Gabbert is the right answer for this position. I think Kaepernick gets the nod this year but that Kelly will view him as nothing more than a stop gap at the position.
Defense is a huge question mark for the Niners, due not only to the talent drain they’ve suffered in the past two years, but also due to the fact that this will be their 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 years. Jim O’Neil has a fairly good pedigree as a defensive coach, and the Niners have some promising young talent especially on the defensive line, but there’s no guarantee his defense will gel well with Kelly’s offensive scheme.
Expect this to be a rough season for the Niners, but one that shows flashes of hope for the future and improves markedly as the season goes on.