Kelly has been applauded as an offensive guru, but may have bitten off more than he could chew when he took over as personnel chief of the Philadelphia Eagles last season. He posted a 6-9 record and was fired amid his third year at the helm before Week 17.
Not quite perceived as the innovative genius he once was, Kelly’s hiring in San Francisco was sure to cause a polarizing reaction on Twitter.
Andrew Brandt of Sports Illustrated summarized the overall sentiment rather well in reacting to the news:
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) January 14, 2016
NFL.com’s Chris Trapasso was among those intrigued by the impending dynamic between Kelly and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke:
Say what you want about both of them, but I'm excited and intrigued to watch Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly work together with the #49ers.
— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) January 14, 2016
Pro Football Talk represented another skeptical school of thought, suggesting Kelly’s thirst for power won’t mesh well with his new colleagues:
Chip Kelly doesn't want personnel control with the 49ers. Then again, he claimed he didn't have it in Philly, the day before he was fired.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 14, 2016
BuzzFeed’s Lindsey Adler expressed similar concerns about the Baalke-Kelly relationship:
Trent Baalke x Chip Kelly. 49ers are ready to play with fire again, I guess.
— Lindsey Adler (@Lahlahlindsey) January 14, 2016
Baalke has done a fine job building the roster on the defensive side, but lost linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis to sudden retirement before this past season. Without Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman to guide the offense, the Niners floundered to a 5-11 record in their only year under Jim Tomsula.
Poking a bit of fun at Kelly’s uptempo, relentless style of play, 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith was keen to get going on his conditioning:
Guess I might have to start running right now to get in shape
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) January 14, 2016
Smith is one of the more dangerous deep threats in the league, but wasn’t able to show that on a regular basis in 2015 due to instability at the quarterback position.
Some may have the perception that Kelly’s hiring means talented signal-caller Colin Kaepernick is in for a big bounce-back year. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller doesn’t believe so:
Blaine Gabbert is a better fit with Chip Kelly than Colin Kaepernick, based on 2015.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 14, 2016
Bill Barnwell of ESPN had a different, more optimistic take on Kaepernick’s outlook in San Francisco with Kelly aboard:
Colin Kaepernick is the best pro quarterback Chip Kelly’s gotten to coach by a pretty significant margin, which is saying something.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 14, 2016
The takes on Kaepernick’s future parallel Kelly’s hiring itself as far as mixed reviews go. But NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday Kelly was trying to figure out how he could potentially trade for Kaepernick when mulling his NFL future.
One of the more interesting aspects of Kelly securing the 49ers job is the fact that the Eagles have yet to find his successor. ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi hinted at the vitriol that may stir in Philadelphia as its team continues its head coaching search:
Chip Kelly getting a NFL gig before the Eagles hire a head coach. This will play well in Philly.
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) January 14, 2016
What would exasperate Eagles fans even more is if the following bold prediction from ESPN’s Joe Schad came to fruition:
Would not be surprised if Chip Kelly has a Jim Harbaugh-like impact in San Francisco
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 14, 2016
There are still believers in Kelly’s football savvy both outside of and within the 49ers facility. He was getting his first shot in the pros with the Eagles and did guide them to a division title in his first season at the helm.
San Francisco evidently believes Kelly will learn from some of his missteps in Philadelphia and become the long-term leader Tomsula couldn’t be following the successful Harbaugh era.
The Niners’ quarterback situation will be closely monitored with Kelly in the fold. Once Harbaugh departed, Kaepernick was a wreck and was benched for former first-round bust Blaine Gabbert.
If Kelly can bring Kaepernick out of his funk and get him playing like the QB who nearly guided San Francisco to a Super Bowl win, two of the punchlines of the 2015 season would have sweet redemption.
But in a tough NFC West division featuring Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis, Kelly and Co. have a ton to prove yet.