NFL AM: 49ers Introduce Chip Kelly


49ers introduce Chip Kelly:

Rarely in life does someone get a huge promotion at their job, only to lose that job within a year for screwing up his new role so badly. What’s even more rare is a guy screwing up a football team the way Chip Kelly screwed up the Philadelphia Eagles and get hired by another team within two weeks.

The thought that someone could look at what Kelly did in Philadelphia and think it would be a good idea to hire him to run their football team is tough to wrap your head around, but Niners’ general manager Trent Baalke says the decision was quite easy.

“At the end of the day, this was a fairly easy decision,” Baalke said. “It was evident early on in our conversations with Chip that he shared a very similar vision to us with respect to the direction of this football team. He’s a well-rounded, highly innovative coach with a proven track record of success at every level of competition, including the NFL.”

Perhaps you can argue that Kelly had limited success in Philadelphia, but calling it a “proven track record of success,” is a bit of a stretch. Yes, the former Eagles head coach started his career in Philly with a pair of 10-win seasons, but considering he blew up the team’s roster after demanding full roster control, it’s unlikely you’d find many people in the City of Brotherly Love who would call Chip’s rein a success.

But there had to be something about Kelly that made him the right fit, right?

“He’s a strong leader of men and somebody I really consider a true football guy,” Baalke continued.

A strong leader of men? Trent, you know we’re talking about a guy who did such a poor job of connecting with his players in Philadelphia that some were implying he could be a racist, right?

Let’s be clear here, the idea that a man who has spent his entire life teaching and coaching young black men is a racist is almost absurd, but if there was enough of a disconnect between Kelly and his players that some of them felt he was a racist, or at the very least didn’t view or treat everyone the same is a big red flag.

Certainly the hints at racism were likely a little over the top, but to call a guy who traded a running back who later said he’d never shake his hand, only to sign another running back who was thrilled when he was fired, “a strong leader of men” may be a bit outlandish.

Chemistry is very important in the NFL, and Philadelphia’s locker room was clearly divided on Kelly. While Baalke wants to call Kelly “a strong leader of men,” the reality is he’s probably better suited to be leading boys.

For his part, the new 49ers head coach tried to be cute during his introductory press conference, at one time joking about the pace of his offense.

“I’ve been known to run a really slow offense and I just wanted to kind of set the tone for how things are going to be here in San Francisco,” Kelly joked about why his introductory presser took so long to happen.

Sorry, but if I’m a 49ers fans I’d much prefer to hear why you’re not going to screw my team up the way you screwed up the Eagles as opposed to poorly timed, stupid jokes.

For all of the criticism the Tennessee Titans have received for hiring Mike Mularkey as their next head coach, at least we know he’s a guy who can coach at the NFL level and garner respect from his players.

Are we certain that’s actually the case for Kelly?

Buccaneers introduce new defensive coordinator Mike Smith:

Lovie Smith was fired in Tampa Bay after just two seasons. Unlike Kelly, he wasn’t fired because he used his final say over roster moves to trade away some of the Buccaneers best players, or because he alienated his locker room with his heavy handed “leadership.”

Instead, Lovie was fired because the defensive-minded head coach had an awful defense. New head coach Dirk Koetter was able to come in and clean up a lot of the Bucs offensive deficiencies through play calling in his first year as offensive coordinator, something Smith never seemed to find a way to do on the defensive side of the ball.

For that reason as much as any, Koetter was promoted to head coach and decided to bring in a Smith of his own, hiring former Atlanta Falcons head coach, and his former boss, Mike Smith to be the Buccaneers next defensive coordinator.

After his introductory press conference, Koetter sat down with the Tampa media for almost 25 minutes, and we asked him what Buccaneers fans could expect from a Mike Smith led defense.

“When I worked with Mike in Jacksonville and Mike was the defensive coordinator, I was the offensive coordinator. What I would say was the hallmark of those defenses is how thoroughly prepared they were,” Koetter told Football Insiders. “Mike’s attention to detail is second to none. He’s a great communicator, he’s a teacher. I think the thing that just got me is how well prepared they were.”

This is music to the ears of Tampa Bay fans who saw a defense that looked completely unprepared too many times during Lovie Smith’s tenure. For Mike Smith, who interviewed for a couple head coaching gigs himself, Tampa Bay represented the only place he would accept a coordinator position.

“This would be the one place that I would come. I’m very excited because of my relationship with Dirk,” Smith explained. “We had an opportunity to work in Jacksonville together, as coordinators, and then he was my [offensive] coordinator there in Atlanta. This is really the only one that I would have considered, getting back in it. I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with the staff that Dirk has put together and some of these guys on this team.”

One of the Buccaneers biggest issues both defensively and as a team this season was their propensity for stupid penalties. Three years in a row while the head coach in Atlanta, Smith’s teams were the least penalized team in football. The former Falcons head coach says when it comes to being penalty free, it has to be an emphasis from day one.

“Well I think it has to be an emphasis point from the very beginning, and that was one of the things that we did in Atlanta in terms of talking to the players about how important it is to play penalty-free,” Smith said. “Especially on the defensive side when you have the spot fouls. The defensive pass interferences are probably the toughest ones to deal with, and then the egregious late hits and things like that. And again, you want guys to play tough, you want them to play smart, though. We want to be tough, we want to be aggressive, but we’ve got to play smart. And we always talked about taking it right up to the edge, but let’s not go over.”

With the huge steps forward the Buccaneers offense took in 2015, if Mike Smith can make the defense respectable in 2016, Tampa Bay might just have a good football team on their hands in Koetter’s first year as head coach.

Key Championship Sunday health statuses:

The New England Patriots placed Jerod Mayo on injured reserve after the veteran linebacker left Sunday’s victory over the Kansas City Chiefs with a shoulder injury. In Mayo, the Patriots defense probably loses as much leadership as they do ability, but something tells us they’ll be just fine.

Johnathan Stewart returned to the Carolina Panthers in their 31-24 victory over Seattle, after missing five straight heading into the playoffs.  He hit the ground running with 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the Panthers’ back missed practice on Wednesday, it looks to be only a precaution, and Carolina does expect to have their back on the field for the NFC Championship game.

The news isn’t as good for veteran defensive end Jared Allen who is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s championship tilt against the Arizona Cardinals.

About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.