The Chip Kelly-Goes-Back-To-School story is a tribute to one thing and one thing only – the aching desire of some folks to talk about the San Francisco 49ers when there is clearly nothing to discuss.
I mean, he didn’t write any letters of support to Presidential candidates or anything, so we have no other he-should-stick-to-sports distractions to keep us from speculating without evidence. Or for that matter, logic.
So yes, file the latest round of Kelly-may-go-back-to-college yammerage to the age-old media hobby of feeding the beast who must always eat. And who are we to complain about a well-nourished beast?
Only in this case, the beast is being fed nothing but high-sugar snacks because there is no reason why this should be a thing, unless you happen to be committed to (a) blaming Kelly for this team and its performance, (b) allowing general manager Trent Baalke a human shield from his own culpability, (c) wanting Jed York to become the new most-impetuous owner in North American sport, or (d) continuing to be employed as Kelly’s real estate agent.
Of those four options, only (d) is an acceptable motive.
Now Kelly may go back to college, but only if Jed York’s annual scapegoat hunt leads him to Kelly’s office rather than Baalke’s. It’s as simple as that. It’s always been as simple as that. If he is fired, he will leave. That’s how being fired works.
Otherwise, he gains nothing by opting out. NFL jobs don’t come along often, and if he leaves of his own volition, he is unlikely to ever be asked to return. Nobody has offered a convincing reason why he would want that.
Rather, it makes far more sense that he would want to raise this sunken ship – a ship that was already on the ocean bed the day he got here. That is being forgotten in the Will-Chip-Skip scenario.
For one, he would stand to have greater power and influence on the football side if Baalke is the one to go.
For two, he would stand to have greater power and influence on the football side even in Baalke stayed in his present weakened state.
For three, York needs him every bit as much as he might need York, a marriage of convenience that Jim Tomsula could not arrange on his own behalf and that Jim Harbaugh didn’t bother to, since as it turns out, he needed York less than York needed him.
York, though, is a jumpy sort, and he might be convinced as the second half of the season goes from rescue mode to recovery mode that the 49ers are a good team that was simply coached badly, which given that he is the one who brought you all the other 49er coaches makes him 1-for-5 over nine seasons in that relatively important category.
It seems far likelier that he would rather turn in Baalke for the resale value, or even maintain the status quo than turn on Kelly after one year. But that would require that the questions being aimed at Kelly be more properly directed at the CEO, who has maintained his own posture of running silent and running deep.
So where are we at, beast-feeding-wise? Chip Kelly is a coach, and coaches work to be dismissed, and they can either deal with baseless speculation or they find a new gig. So the questions are not unfair.
They are, however, misdirected. The question is not, “Will Chip Kelly quit the 49ers?” but “Will the 49ers quit Chip Kelly?” The difference is crucial, even if it doesn’t feed the beast quite so well.