There were no bumbling answers or interruptions on football philosophy during this year’s press conference to usher in a new 49ers head coach.
Instead, the organization looked to take a step forward as a beaming front office staff, and their new employee, looked to confidently usher in a new era of 49ers football.
Flanked by CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke, Kelly was formally introduced as the 20th head coach in franchise history on Wednesday afternoon, holding a half-hour long conference at Levi’s Stadium that saw his personality and football knowledge shine on his new stage.
Although many assumed that now head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Hue Jackson, was the prime 49ers target this offseason, Baalke was quick to heave heaps of praise upon his new coach, stating he was the best option to revive this lackluster team.
“At the end of the day, this was a fairly easy decision. It was evident fairly early on in our conversations with Chip that he shared a very similar vision to us with respect to the direction of this football team. … He’s somebody I really consider a true football guy.”
Part of that vision has to be Kelly’s ability to overhaul a largely unimaginative and stagnant offense that ranked 31st in the NFL in 2015.
Known for his up-tempo style of play, Kelly fielded a variety of questions throughout the day about his plans to overhaul the 49ers offense.
“When we get a new staff together here it will be a collaborative effort. So I think our offense will look somewhat like we did in Philadelphia, but we have different personnel to plug into places and we have different coaches coming in from different organization to add what they can. At the end of the day its ‘how do we do it better than we’ve ever done it before,’ and I’m excited about that aspect of continuing to dwell on the offensive side of the ball.”
In his three years in Philadelphia, Kelly’s teams managed to earn a second, fifth and twelfth place ranking in the NFL in offense. It remains to be seen how the 49ers current personnel will fit with Kelly’s scheme — if at all.
Personnel disputes were part of the criticism revolving around Kelly in Philadelphia, as his management of the roster led to valuable players such as DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin departing from the team.
However, Kelly claimed that his time in Philadelphia was a learning experience for the coach who will enter just his fourth season in the NFL.
“If you’re a coach, you self-scout after every season, you self-scout what we did well, what we did poorly, how can we improve as a team. And I was in the process of that. I don’t think of it as a self-scout, to me really, because I got fired I look at it as a self-autopsy. So I’m in the middle of the autopsy right now, I’m still looking at it.”
He would later state matter-of-factly that in his new role with the 49ers, he simply looks to coach, while giving full control of Baalke to handle the design of the 53-man roster. However, Baalke and Kelly will likely work together this offseason to draw in players capable of thriving in his system.
Kelly claimed that part of the allure of the 49ers was the prospect of the third-most cap space in free agency, as well as the 49ers upcoming group of draft picks that includes the number seven overall.
That monetary freedom and hoard of draft picks should make it easy for Kelly to begin his transformation of this franchise into a team with a known offensive identity.
One of the biggest underlying questions for Kelly on offense will be the quarterback crisis that plagued the team last year.
While it seems like a foregone conclusion that former starter Colin Kaepernick would be best suited to run Kelly’s up-tempo offense, strained relationships with the front office and a rehab schedule from a variety of offseason surgeries muddy the situation.
With Blaine Gabbert‘s admirable play towards the tail-end of last season making the decision even more unclear, Kelly was quick to shoot down any speculation regarding the position for next season.
“I think specifically, when it comes to quarterbacks, or any other position here, it’s an ongoing process and evaluation. … I think the process itself, we have a lot of time. We aren’t going to be back out with any of the players here.”
Although Kelly is unable to talk football with any players until April 4 due to CBA agreements, the coach stated that he’s met with both Kaepernick and Gabbert, as well as other key members on the team such as T Joe Staley, LB NaVorro Bowman and RB Carlos Hyde.
Kelly also stated that he will assume play calling duties from the sidelines, signaling a hands-on and immersive approach into his redesign of the 49ers offense.
But while the coach may look to wear more hats than the previous occupant of the position, the concern for Kelly and Baalke remains assembling a top-notch staff of assistants and coordinators to support his efforts.
Kelly confirmed on Wednesday that the lone assistant from former head coach Jim Tomsula’s regime is running back’s coach Tom Rathman.
A few names have been linked to his staff, such linebacker coach for the Houston Texans, Mike Vrabel, who is rumored to be in line for a defensive coordinator position.
Buffalo Bills assistant coach Anthony Lynn is in the mix for offensive coordinator with the firing of Geep Chryst according to Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez. Curtis Modkins from Detroit and Ryan Day — who worked with Kelly as quarterback’s coach of the Eagles — have also been rumored for the spot.
Many distinctions have been drawn between Kelly’s supposed personality and that of former coach head coach Jim Harbaugh, in regards of their ability to cooperate with Baalke.
However, both Kelly and Baalke were quick to stem any notion of animosity, as the new head coach went on to claim the general manager as a significant factor in his willingness to sign with the team.
“When you talk about Trent, Trent’s a football guy, and I like to think I’m a football guy. He’s a grinder, he loves the game, he loves everything about the game. I love everything about the game. And I can’t tell you what a blast it’s been the last two weeks just talking vision and ‘how do you see this, how do you see that,’ and just to be able to collaboratively work with someone like that, and building this team to a point where we can get a sixth [Lombardi] trophy to put in that case out front.”
The 49ers now have a hard-nosed, offensive-minded, proven winner at the helm of their team. And while concerns about the current personnel of the 49ers may still cast doubt about San Francisco’s ability to regain their former Super Bowl.
Regardless, the 49ers took the first and perhaps most important step in attempting to turn around this organization.
With this new head coach comes a new football team. And that may just be all the excitement both the fans and players need to see their team return to the playoffs.