For now, Chip Kelly is the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
He knows that could change. He understands that 2-13 records aren’t good for his long-term prognosis. And he acknowledges that the San Francisco franchise has some decisions to make – hard ones – after this season.
The 49ers will play their season finale this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks, and after that, the clock will be ticking on Kelly’s fate. He could be fired on “Black Monday,” the day when NFL teams often jettison failed coaching staffs, or he may have to wait a while. Certainly, there will be change somewhere in the team leadership structure.
Yet, Kelly says he’s focusing only on the job at hand. He says he hasn’t had talks with CEO Jed York or general manager Trent Baalke about his fate.
“I’m concerned with Seattle,” Kelly told reporters this week, after his team came up with its second victory of the season against the Rams last Saturday. “That’s not a discussion, shouldn’t be discussed during the season. So, we’ll discuss it after the season.”
Certainly, not all the problems the 49ers had this season were because of Kelly. He entered the season with a suspect group of quarterbacks, a mediocre corps of wide receivers, questions at linebacker and an untested group of cornerbacks. The roster also was thin. Injuries to starters have left the team with exposed backups. Critics often point to Baalke’s failures in the draft to being the No. 1 problem.
In fact, some of his players have said they want Kelly back for 2017. They’d like to give him time to show what they believe he can do.
Veteran left tackle Joe Staley pointed to Kelly holding the team together during its franchise-record 13-game losing streak this season.
“Chip’s a great football coach,” Staley told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “Look at the team. He’s done a great job of keeping us together. We’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain as players as far as executing better.”
Tight end Vance McDonald told Barrows that Kelly each week establishes a clear game plan, is well organized and is a strong coach and teacher.
“He’s very clear about coaching points that we need to take from the game on Sunday,” McDonald said.
Kelly will have three years remaining on his four-year, $24 million deal, so the 49ers would have to swallow a huge chunk of cash to just say goodbye to their head coach. But if the Niners want to truly start fresh, York could sweep out Baalke and Kelly and bring in a complete new leadership cast. Until Monday, we may not know. Even then, 49ers fans may have to wait to see what happens.
Kelly is certain what he’s done will be reviewed, and the pluses and minuses weighed, once he and his team get through with the Seahawks Sunday.
Said Kelly: “You would think that’s when it would happen, right?”
The 49ers are set to take on the 9-5 Seahawks Sunday at 1:25 p.m.