During the Miami Dolphins’ 2015-2016 offseason, they spent part of the time building a new coaching staff, beginning with a search for a new head coach, a role eventually filled by former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. While the Dolphins were looking for their new head coach, the same thing was happening with the San Francisco 49ers, who hired recently fired Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly to take over the top coaching position.
Kelly was unceremoniously booted from Philadelphia after three years, during which he tallied a 26-21 record with one playoff appearance and he wrested full personnel control of the team. After a series of questionable player personnel moves and a fall from two 10-6 seasons to a 6-9 performance, Kelly was fired with one week remaining in the 2015 season.
The 49ers then hired Kelly to replace the fired Jim Tomsula, who coached the team for one year after the departure of Jim Harbaugh. Through his first 10 games as the team’s head coach, Kelly’s 49ers are 1-9, losing nine straight after a Week 1 win.
“The 49ers are a mess right now,” Niners Nation head writer David Fucillo said this week. “It is hard to fully assess Chip Kelly's work with the offense because the 49ers simply lack the kind of talent needed for it to shine. Colin Kaepernick has shown some sparks at times, but every week it seems like things fall apart in the second half. The team has Torrey Smith (who is currently injured) and not much else at wide receiver. Carlos Hyde brings a lot to the ground game, but the run blocking has been fairly mediocre.”
A large part of the criticism of Kelly, who arrived at the Eagles after success at the University of Oregon, was his desire to prove that his system - uptempo offense, players that fit his ideal, etc. - would work at the NFL level. Moving to the 49ers, Kelly told reporters that he had learned from his first three years at the professional level, and that he would adjust some of the things that he wanted in his second job.
How has Kelly changed? Fucillo addressed that exact issues, stating, “Where we can see some potential improvement from Philly is in his work with the players. The [Colin] Kaepernick [National Anthem] protest could have thrown any coach for a loop, but Kelly backed Kaepernick's right to protest, and went a step further to offer words of support for the cause itself. All indications are that the locker room likes Kelly. There is some concern whether he swung too far the other way and is a little too soft, but I think any struggles are due to lack of talent more than Kelly becoming too soft all of a sudden.”
Even with the new head coach, however, things are still going badly in San Francisco. A 1-9 record, with the team starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback for the first five games and Kaepernick, has not been the immediate success 49ers fans probably expected when the team hired Kelly. But, there has to be hope for the future, right?
“Right now, most 49ers fans have no hope for anything. We are mostly just waiting for the season to end to see what happens with GM Trent Baalke. The bulk of the blame has been placed on him and/or team CEO/owner Jed York. Kelly gets some blame as well, but nowhere near what those two get. And so, we wait for January to see if the organization gets some kind of overhaul.”
Two teams with new head coaches head into a Week 12 meeting on Sunday, with one team looking to keep building toward a possible playoff berth while the other is just hoping to finish the season so changes can again be made to their franchise. As a Dolphins fan, it is very nice to be on the Playoff side of that equation for once.
Kickoff is at 1pm ET Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.