Despite being in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, the 49ers have avoided any temper flare ups that would befit their current status as one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Head coach Chip Kelly is fine with that.
When asked if he sees anybody standing up and saying their current performance is unacceptable behind the scenes, Kelly defended himself.
“I don’t think our guys aren’t competing,” he said. “Arguably the best coach in the game right now is [the New England Patriots’] Bill Belichick. He’s not a fiery, fire and brimstone guy, but he has a very clear vision, understands exactly what he wants, leads by example and does a great job with it.”
(While true, Belichick never led a season this bad. Even during his lackluster years with the Cleveland Browns, his worst season saw five wins before being fired in 1995.)
Kelly said having a vocal leader in the locker room is “overrated.”
“I think part of being a good leader is being able to articulate your vision,” he explained. “You don’t have to be a yeller or a screamer to do that. There’s been different types of leaders as you go through and look at the history. Some guys are very vocal. Other guys don’t have to raise their voice at all and everybody listens to them.”
Linebacker Aaron Lynch has been relatively outspoken this season. He said in October that the Niners were one of the best teams in the NFC. He stood by those statements on Tuesday.
“I think we showed in the beginning of the game [against the Jets] that we have one the best, better teams in the league,” Lynch told reporters. “But you know, the record isn’t going to show that. We’re 1-11, whatever it is, 1-12, whatever that is. I don’t really look at the record, I look at how we all play and I think we all played our asses off this game. And I still feel like we have a really great team.”
Kelly wouldn’t back his player on that one, though, saying he doesn’t care if the team is “close” to being good.
“I don’t use those terms,” he said. “I just look at our record. You don’t get any points for being close.”
But he did agree with Lynch and Colin Kaepernick that the team would be much improved if it learned to do the little things that win games late.
“I agree we have to finish better,” Kelly said.
The 49ers and their 32nd-ranked defense travel to Atlanta this Sunday for a game against the Falcons, who own the most explosive offense in the NFL. So, at the least, the game should be a good test to Lynch’s contention that they’re close to being a respected defense.