I’ve spent the bulk of the last few days debating whether or not there’s anything I can add to the talk about Chip Kelly getting hired to coach the 49ers. There’s little more to be said, really; the move is most likely to be a disaster, for reasons explained in this space a couple of weeks ago.
There may be little to say about the Kelly hiring in and of itself, but having observed the Bay Area sports media since the announcement, I’ve noticed something very weird: for some reason, there’s been a bizarre amount of optimism about this move in the local media coverage.
This article from the San Francisco Chronicle/sfgate.com is fairly representative, and in no way alone, in delivering cheery assessments of how well everything is going to work with Kelly now in the 49ers fold. It makes one wonder: have these guys and gals been paying attention these past few months?
As that article notes–before deftly tossing the fact aside–Kelly got fired in Philadelphia largely because of personality conflicts. That was the same illness that swept through the team offices in Santa Clara a year and a half ago, which ultimately led to Jim Harbaugh walking out the door.
In the midst of his not winning friends and influencing people, Kelly was also not winning games, either. His Eagles were underwhelming all year, and yet still had a chance to win their division due to the feckless competition–until they laid down like dogs against the Redskins in the penultimate game of the season. There were even insinuations–by Peter King of MMQB, no less, in a radio interview I heard last week–that Eagles tackle Jason Peters simply quit during that game, just out of disgust for Chip Kelly. Does that sound like a coach who can get the most out of the talent he has?
And of course, with San Francisco, Kelly has arguably less talent than he had in Philadelphia. He won’t be able to trade away his talent with the 49ers; Trent Baalke, he of the questionable draft record, remains the GM in Santa Clara. Is it likely the roster is going to get a lot better quick enough for Kelly to get results? He may get better results than the hapless Jim Tomsula, but that’s not saying much.
The biggest talent question mark remains the man in the middle, Colin Kaepernick. Much of the optimism seems to swirl around the idea that Kelly is going to sprinkle some pixie dust on Kaepernick and revive his career as a top flight NFL quarterback. Maybe. But Kelly built his reputation as the developer of an innovative–and somewhat complex, at least to an outside viewer–offense. If he’s to succeed in thrive in Kelly’s system, Kaepernick will need to study hard to learn the new playbook; it hardly bodes well that there were whispers during last season that Kaepernick spent much less time studying film than his replacement, Blaine Gabbert–this during a period when, in theory, he was in a fight to regain his starting job and continue his career. How much effect did injury have on that situation? That remains up for debate. The talk at the time simply indicated that Kaepernick was not putting in the effort.
There’s so much that can go wrong with this hire, and yet the local media keep painting an oddly rosy picture–even after having witnessed the farce that has been the Niners’ last 12 months. Maybe keeping things upbeat helps sell the team, and thus sell more newspapers or commercial airtime or mouse clicks. But you’d think at least someone around here would be interested in performing some actual sports journalism and telling it like it is.
The legendary San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen was fond of referring to SF as “Baghdad by the Bay.” It turns out Caen may have been off by a few hundred miles. It really should have been “Egypt by the Bay,” with a lot of bylines listing “Cleopatra” and “Ramesses”–because apparently the local media is full of kings and queens of denial.