On a candidates list otherwise short of starpower, the 49ers have found a lightning rod in the embattled Chip Kelly.
The deposed Philadelphia Eagles coach has sent feelers that he wants back in the NFL, and in the 49ers he has found open ears. Kelly is one of four candidates known to have spoken with the organization about its head coach vacancy.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the former Raiders head coach, is set to be interviewed by 49ers officials Sunday in Cincinnati. The Bengals have a playoff game at home against Pittsburgh the night before.
Kelly comes off a tumultuous season filled with controversy, one that concluded with questions about his leadership and talent evaluation skills.
On Dec. 29, Kelly was relieved of his duties with one game left in the regular season, his third with the team. The Eagles had consecutive 10-6 records before they dropped to 6-9 and out of the playoffs this season.
After Kelly was terminated, team owner Jeffrey Lurie said of his successor, “Looking for somebody who interacts very well and communicates clearly with everybody he works with and comes in touch with.”
While Kelly did not have the title of general manager during his Eagles tenure, he had the final word on personnel matters. The question is whether Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke can form a successful partnership in Santa Clara, where Baalke and former coach Jim Harbaugh clashed before Harbaugh left after the 2014 season. CEO Jed York has said Baalke and the new coach will have to find a happy medium in making personnel decisions.
Former Eagle DeSean Jackson had more criticism for Kelly when the current Washington Redskins and former Cal wide receiver told TheMMQB.com in a Friday story, “When you ruin a team like that, you do things to peoples’ families, you release people, you trade people, you get rid of good players who build something with the community, with the fans, with the kids — to have a guy come in and change up the team like that, I just believe in karma.
“I don’t have any bad words to say about [Kelly] as far as what he feels he needs on his roster. But the guys that were on that roster created something special, from Jeremy Maclin to LeSean McCoy to Trent Cole to Todd Herremans and myself and Brandon Boykin — it goes on and on and on. When we were there, we were a brotherhood. So for everyone to go their separate ways and to see how it all ended up, it’s a very sad thing.”
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo also met with the Niners. Like Jim Tomsula, who was fired by the team last week, he has no previous experience as an NFL head coach.
Buffalo Bills assistant Anthony Lynn met with team officials on Thursday, but he is no more than a long shot for the position. Lynn fulfills the requirement of the Rooney Rule, which stipulates that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for the position.
That the 37-year DeFilippo was on the list could be an indication that additional changes are in store for the coaching staff. While the Browns were a distant 25th in total offense this season, they ranked ahead of the Niners in most categories with comparable talent. All assistants on Tomsula’s staff — including offensive coordinator Geep Chryst and quarterbacks coach Steve Logan — remain on the 49ers’ payroll until the new coach has time to assess them, York said.
DeFilippo has experience with quarterbacks, another area where the Niners came up short this season. Previously, he served as quarterbacks coach for the Raiders (2007-08, 2012-14) and New York Jets (2009).
DeFilippo also has a link to high places. He hails from Youngstown, Ohio, home of the York family. He and Jed York are Notre Dame products.
The front office also has had ongoing talks with former Denver Broncos coach and Niners offense coordinator Mike Shanahan, who, along with Kelly, is unemployed.
The Niners had talks with nine candidates before they settled on Tomsula one year ago.