The other big firings of what we’re probably going to have to start calling ‘Black Sunday’ came in San Francisco, where the Chip Kelly era came to an abrupt end.
Chip Kelly spent most of Sunday looking like a dead man walking. Even before his team went down, narrowly, at home to the Seahawks 49ers general manager Trent Baalke announced that he had been dismissed. It is hard to escape the notion that Kelly coached that game knowing that he, too, was out of the door.
Of the two sackings, Baalke’s was the least surprising, given the downturn in the franchise’s fortunes over the past few seasons. Since that heartbreaking loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII the side has been in a downward spiral and much of the blame for that must lie at the feet of Baalke, the man who at that time was being spoken of as a kind of genius among general managers. Whilst retirements and injuries have played a part, the failure to address both a diminishing stock of offensive weapons and a rapidly deteriorating quarterback situation must lie at his door. So, too, must the breakdown in relationship between the franchise and Jim Harbaugh which led to a situation where San Francisco have been through three head coaches in three seasons – Harbaugh, Kelly and the luckless Jim Tomsula.
By contrast, there was a feeling even a few weeks ago that Kelly would get a second season in the Bay. Despite the slump to one of the worst seasons – both in terms of results and in level of play – in franchise history, many believed that he would get another season to both acquire the personnel that he wanted to have on the field and also to fix that position behind center, where he had flip-flopped disastrously between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick (and irritated both in the process). Moreover, could the York family be seen to drop yet another coach after just one season, a tactic which hasn’t exactly worked well in places like Cleveland?
The answer to that last question is a resounding ‘yes’. Moreover, it seems likely that they won’t be slow to do it again. With no franchise quarterback and gaps all over the roster this isn’t a job which is likely to attract a big ticket coach at the moment. Rumour has it that the team has already spoken with Anthony Lynn, who is also a candidate to stay in Buffalo where he is currently interim head coach, and are also interested in several other potential first time coaches such as Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay. They are also speaking to Colt’s VP of football operations Jimmy Raye about the GM role; at least he’s used to toxic and unsettled working environments.
As for Kelly, well, it would be a major surprise to see him coach in the NFL again. His attempts to import college schemes into the professional game have hit the wall in two cities and, unless he is prepared to change his own philosophies rather radically, it is hard to see another team taking a gamble on him.