Link to my column about Chip Kelly. Text below:

Chip Kelly is a blow-your-brains-out-your-ears exciting hire. It instantly makes the 49ers interesting and worth watching and talking about. It makes you take them seriously. It is the most dramatic hire the coach-needy 49ers could have made.

It also could be a good hire. Or not.

What’s good about Kelly? (I have this insane urge to call him the Chipster.)

He has a flat-out innovative offense. One of a kind. Worked great at Oregon — dazzled college defenses. Worked well for a while in Philly. Total speed and flash and dash and get-theplay-off fast. Out of breath just writing that.

When it works, it’s gorgeous. Bill Walsh gorgeous. An absolute thing of beauty. When was the last time you called the Niners’ offense a thing of beauty? Certainly not this season under the Butcher Tomsula and his overmatched offensive coordinator Whatsisname. (The Geepster?) Not even under Jim Harbaugh, whose offense was blunt, about as subtle as driving a truck through a brick wall.

And Kelly is forward-thinking in a way NFL coaches are not. He takes extreme measures to get his players in shape and keep them healthy. Cutting-edge measures. He hires nutritionists, hires specialists who monitor players’ sleep patterns, keeps track of hydration levels.

Every day, players fill out a sheet about how they’re feeling. Kelly designs an individual lifestyle program for each player. Caters to players, analyzes each player and treats him as an individual. It’s almost like these players are at a state-of-the-art spa. They are millions-of-dollars investments and Kelly treats them accordingly. All this is commendable.
Questions Surround Baggage Chip Kelly Brings From Philly
CBS San Francisco

He did this stuff at Oregon and it worked. Almost coddled his players. When he went to the Eagles, he backed off Andy Reid’s tough training camps, was considerate about not imposing too many reps on players, reduced the amount of contact, increased recovery time. His ideas are unique in the NFL and I applaud them.

What’s not so good about Kelly?

Before that, here’s something important. Pay attention because there may be a quiz. Kelly is taking over a bad roster. No need to elaborate. Give this roster to Walsh, Vince Lombardi or Don Shula and it’s still a bad roster that won’t make the playoffs next season or win lots of games. Kelly will install his system and get better players in concert with Trent Baalke — well, maybe. But he won’t make the 49ers into the Arizona Cardinals just like that. OK, you paid attention, so no quiz.
Back to Kelly and what’s not so good. His offense is of a certain kind. Rev up that engine and floor the accelerator. He runs more plays than other teams. Sounds good, right? Well, there are repercussions.

It is not a friendly offense to his own defense. Stick with me here. A football team is one team, not two teams — offense and defense. Forget special teams for a moment. Kelly’s offense exposes his defense to more snaps than usual. Takes a toll. And the opposing offense gets more shots at you. The Kelly offense works against the Kelly defense and, in that sense, a Kelly team is not one unified organism.

If his offense goes three and out lots of times, his defenders don’t have time to grab a Gatorade before they rush back onto the field huffing and puffing and sweating. A Chip Kelly defense gets pooped because the offense does not protect it or preserve it.
This happened in Philadelphia.

Personnel — what players he has — becomes crucial for Kelly. It’s crucial on every team, sure. But Kelly needs a certain kind of player to play offense for him or he’s sunk. He is a “scheme” coach who forces players into his system. He does not adapt his system to his talent. Enormously important point.
He got players to fit his system at Oregon because every year there were wholesale changes on the roster. Kelly could guarantee the influx of fast, elusive players to run his extreme up-tempo offense, all his bubble screens and speed screens and short passes and that zone-read option (remember that one?), and then rush back to the line of scrimmage as fast as lightning and do it again.

An NFL team can’t go out every year and cherry-pick the players it wants. Not so easy to turn over a roster in the NFL, a league not built for wholesale change. There’s the salary cap, the draft and free agency. Players last longer. Trades don’t happen as easily as in baseball. In Philadelphia, Kelly dumped excellent players who had won games because they did not fit the Chip paradigm.

Here’s a partial list: Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Running back LeSean McCoy. Guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. Quarterback Nick Foles. Maclin and Jackson were his home-run hitters. Gone. He went from a home-run offense to a bunt-and-single offense. The Eagles’ roster was worse when he left than when he arrived.

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An outside observer may have called Kelly’s philosophy in Philly rigid and narrow-minded. Not a recommendation for the Chipster.

The same outside observer sure would conclude the Niners do not have the players Kelly needs. How long will it take to get them?

Another thing. The league has figured out his style of play, although now that he’s in another division, NFC West opponents will have a slight learning curve. Be clear, defenses in the league are onto him, have caught up to the zone-read option just as years ago the offenses caught up to the 46 defense. It takes a while, but give NFL coaches enough time and they will figure out the cure.

Key question here. Has Kelly learned that his opponents have learned? He needs to alter and advance his playbook to stay ahead of the league. Can he? He could not in Philadelphia.

And then there’s the interaction between Kelly and Baalke, two control freaks. What will it cost Baalke to get rid of un-Kelly players and to get Kelly players?

More to the point, who will have final say on the roster? This could be a beauty. We’re talking about the power struggle that’s about to start. We’re talking about the draft, waivers, free agents. We’re noticing Baalke is no personnel genius. Neither is Kelly. This could be total, all-out war.

The Niners are always more interesting off the field than on it. Have at it, Chipster.

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