The San Francisco 49ers are struggling, and their head coach once thrived in college.
Naturally, that’s led to several around the league — team officials and media alike — to wonder if Chip Kelly is eyeing an exit strategy from Santa Clara.
CBS Sports reported that one unnamed NFL executive said, “[Kelly] just keeps running the same shit and it isn’t fooling anybody. Do you think they could bring him back to Oregon?”
It was a common refrain by the fans in Philadelphia to call for Kelly to return to the collegiate game, which was somewhat unfair.
To pile onto him for the 49ers’ struggles (1-5) would be monumentally undeserved as he inherited a shoddy-at-best roster that has been further decimated by injuries.
When asked on Thursday if he was committed to his current organization, Kelly said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
It’s been a rotten season for this franchise and losing Kelly would compound its problems, because of all the areas it’s deficient, coaching ranks low on the list.
That’s not to say he’s been perfect. Hiring defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil looks to have been a massive mistake as running holes for opponents and instances of blown coverages seem to grow by the week.
(Doesn’t it feel like that Week 1 blowout over the Los Angeles Rams happened ages ago?)
I’m not ready to bury Kelly for hiring O’Neil. The former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator wasn’t Kelly’s first choice. That would be Mike Vrabel, who refused what would’ve amounted to a promotion, preferring his role as linebackers coach for the Houston Texans.
That was an embarrassing episode for the 49ers. But if O’Neil’s struggling defense lands the Niners a top-two pick after this lost year, that’s all the better for Kelly to work with when general manager Trent Baalke is inevitably fired at the end of the year.
Kelly isn’t capable of doing the impossible — that is, turning this roster into a winner — but given some time and new players, he could return the Niners back into contention.
The Faithful just have to hope he’s willing to weather the storm in the meantime.