Two seasons after parting with Jim Harbaugh and one season after letting Jim Tomsula go, the 49ers are at it again. Moving on. Chip Kelly, your turn. That place, it needed some change, but now you’re going to have four head coaches in four years and, really, I don’t know if that helps anybody.
I still think Kelly is a good coach. Some people are going to be caught up in, “He’s still only a college coach.” But look at this season’s 49ers – they’re a shadow of that Super Bowl team in 2012. It’s not even close. They’ve lost so many players, I’m surprised they even won a game.
Kelly’s system is a pretty good one – look at what he did with Nick Foles his first year in Philadelphia. Sam Bradford played some good quarterback there. Mark Sanchez played pretty well in that system.
It is hard, though, with NFL guys. I’ve been in those locker rooms and it’s difficult to sell that type of offense. It just doesn’t fit the natural mold. Kelly’s offense doesn’t run a ton of plays, so you have to out-hustle guys, and at the NFL level everybody can go. They can sub guys in and they’re still freak athletes. And there are only so many times on the read option that you can put that defensive end in position to tackle your quarterback or your running back. The defensive ends are better athletes than your running backs and your quarterbacks in this league. They’re going to make plays.
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Even with all that, Kelly battled through it. In San Francisco, he just didn’t have the players. There’s not one guy that I could see out there that would have started for that 2012 Super Bowl team. Maybe (offensive tackle) Joe Staley, but that’s about it.
That said, Jed York is going to have a lot of soul-searching to do. He’s going to have to bring in someone who knows what they’re doing.
I’d hire the head coach first and have him find his general manager. Look at how that has worked out in Seattle, in Kansas City, in New England. That’s the way they do it. A team often will bring a general manager in and have him find the head coach. But a lot of times the general manager isn’t a football guy, so you have to find a general manager who knows how to get the guys the head coach wants. If you don’t, you’re fighting an uphill battle. And, unfortunately, that’s the way it is mostly around the league. I think the head coach should have a big hand in who is hired as the general manager. That way he knows the type of guys he’s getting to fit his system.
Unless you’re John Elway and you know the type of guy that fits into your system – because you ran that exact system – I just think it’s a tough fit. It’s backward. I know it has been that way for a long time and I’m not trying to say they should change it, but the teams that are doing it that way are doing it pretty well.
The 49ers, they have to start somewhere doing it right.
A lot of times the general manager isn’t a football guy, so you have to find a general manager who knows how to get the guys the head coach wants. If you don’t, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
They have a lot of work to do. I still remember the first time I went on the 49ers’ practice field and you see Justin Smith and Patrick Willis and they’ve drafted NaVorro Bowman and I was like, “Who’s this kid? He’s going to be a fantastic player.” On the offensive side of the ball they had Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in their prime. They built their offensive and defensive lines to where they could just take over the line of scrimmage. Look at Dallas now, they’ve done the same thing. Their defense is a little different – they play situational, opportunistic football on defense. But if you can control the line of scrimmage, that’s where it starts. That’s where you win football games.
I don’t even know if they have a quarterback. At least in Jacksonville and Los Angeles they can say, “We have a young guy we can go with.” But we don’t know where Colin Kaepernick is mentally. Does he think he can still do it? That’s the most important question those guys are going to have to answer. Does he think he’s the guy? Does he have the desire to do this and put in the time it takes to be that guy?
They’re probably going to have to get another quarterback in the draft to compete or do something in free agency – but it’s going to be hard to attract a free-agent QB. When you think about the guys who have an opportunity to go somewhere, San Francisco is not No. 1 on the list. I remember sitting there with Eli Manning in my second year with the Giants and we were trying to figure it out just through watching film. He knew my contract was up and he wanted to see me have success and get a chance to play somewhere and we instantly saw San Francisco as an option.
Looking at the 49ers then, it was, “Man, they just need a quarterback or a coach or something, because they have all the talent in the world,” and a couple of years later they were in the Super Bowl. But I just don’t see that on this team right now.
Question of the week
From Tiffany Jepson: In 2001 as the Fresno State quarterback you were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. How many copies of that magazine do you think you have autographed?
I would say I probably signed every one of them. If you have one and want to find me somewhere I’ll be in Fresno or Bakersfield or you can catch me at the Bakersfield Christian High School games next year.
That was really cool, though. Derek was on ESPN The Magazine the other day. Well, he has been in the NFL for three years, so he’s kind of used to it. We were just kids in college. I remember going to my philosophy class and I show up and everybody has a Sports Illustrated and they all want me to sign it. The whole class turned into, “How cool is this? Fresno State is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.” Even the professor. We didn’t even talk about anything else, and then we got dismissed. I signed my professor’s magazine and we walked out the door. It was a cool deal for the city of Fresno. Obviously, it was cool for my family and me, but everybody in the city and on campus, it was a lot of fun. For us, it was really neat. That was a special year.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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