If anyone should weigh in on the 49ers’ hiring of Chip Kelly, it’s Steve Mariucci, who coached San Francisco from 1997 to 2002. Mariucci knows the franchise, the area and the fan base quite well.
So, Steve, does Kelly’s hire make sense?
“Well, on a lot of levels, it does make sense,” the NFL Network analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “When you think about it, they got to get people back in those seats, No. 1. They built this gorgeous Taj Mahal stadium. It’s beautiful. And people were disgruntled with the direction of the team losing six first-round players. Six were gone last year all at once. It was a mass exodus with players and coaches. Jim Tomsula was really put in a tough spot. So anyway, they needed to get some kind of high-profile guy. Well, Chip Kelly is a Pac-12 guy. He’s a high-profile guy.”
Colin Kaepernick will likely start for the Niners next season. He completed 59.0 percent of his passes for 1,615 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions in nine games this past season, as the 49ers finished last in the league in scoring offense. The key for Kaepernick in Kelly’s system, though, is his mobility. Kaepernick has averaged 6.0 yards per carry and scored 11 rushing touchdowns since 2012.
“I think it’ll be a possibility to resurrect Colin Kaepernick’s career,” Mariucci said. “(Kelly’s) type of offense might be perfect for Kaepernick. If they hired a West Coast offense guy like a Shanahan, maybe that’s not his kind of quarterback. But Chip Kelly might be able to get a lot of out Colin Kaepernick. Heck, Nick Foles had 27 touchdowns and only two picks one season (under Kelly).
“So I think it’ll create some excitement,” Mariucci continued. “I think it’ll help resurrect Colin Kaepernick’s career. I think they save some money because Chip has some years left over in Philly, which will offset against his contract over here in San Francisco. So financially, it makes sense in a lot of ways. He is experienced. He’s not a new kid on the block.”
The Niners went 5-11 this past season, their worst finish since 2007. Kelly, meanwhile, went 10-6 in his first two seasons in Philadelphia and 26-21 overall.
“Chip did a good job, guys,” Mariucci said. “He was 10-6. His offense had more 400-yard games than anybody in the league during his time there. He could be explosive at times. The fast tempo, we know, put the defense in a bind when they went 3-and-out too many times. But I think his demise was when he became the general manger and he was choosing the groceries and he made some decisions that were a little controversial that stirred it up around the league when he let some good players go and they had something to say about it. I think maybe that’s what caused a little angst over there in Philly. He’s not going to be calling the shots that way. Trent Baalke will be. So hopefully they’ll see eye-to-eye on what he needs for that system to work and find some players. I think it’s an intriguing hire.”