Chip Kelly hasn’t coached a down for the San Francisco 49ers, yet is a polarizing figure.
Niners fans and NFL observers already have voiced their opinions about the team’s new head coach. Is he an offensive genius whose fast-paced, spread attack will re-energize a team that has spiraled into the NFL basement over the past two seasons? Or did the slide of the Philadelphia Eagles last season – plus all the criticism he took from certain players – signal that Kelly is ill-suited for the professional game?
Kelly’s former quarterback at Oregon, Marcus Mariota, believes Kelly will thrive with the 49ers.
“I think he’s proven (he can be a winner) the first two years (at Philadelphia),” Mariota, now with the Tennessee Titans, told a reporter recently. “I think this past year was tough. He probably didn’t have the season he wanted. But to win 10 games (each) his first two years says a lot about what he’s able to do and says a lot about his coaching.”
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock also recently said he believes the combination of Kelly with mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be a winner.
“It’s one of the best things that could have happened for him (Kaepernick),” said Mayock. “(Kelly’s system) is very quarterback friendly as far as the pass game is concerned. There are a lot of fairly simple reads and I think Kaepernick can pick it up very quickly and I think you’ll probably see a very different and very effective Colin Kaepernick next year.”
An NFL Network poll went along with Mayock, with fans casting 79 percent of their votes as “yes” to the question, “Will the Kelly and Kaepernick combination be successful?”
But this week, former Eagles standout guard Even Mathis, who played this past season for the Super Bowl-champion Broncos, cast a vote against Kelly. Mathis, who was released by the Eagles during Kelly’s reign, said his first two seasons under Kelly weren’t good ones.
“There were many things that Chip had done that showed me he wasn’t building a championship team,” Mathis wrote in an email to a Denver TV station. “Two of the main issues that concerned me were: 1. A never-evolving vanilla offense that forced our own defense to play higher than normal play counts. 2. His impatience with certain personality types even when they were blue-chip talents.”
In Philadelphia, Kelly released Mathis, a two-time Pro Bowler, and released or traded such stars at receiver DeSean Jackson, quarterback Nick Foles, linebacker Trent Cole, running back LeSean McCoy and receiver Jeremy Maclin.
However with the 49ers, Kelly will not have personnel responsibilities as he did in Philadelphia. General manager Trent Baalke will handle those duties, with Kelly doing the coaching. That may solve some of those issues with personalities that Mathis noted.