When things go wrong in the NFL, people expect the source of the problem to be fired.
With the bye week coming in San Francisco, head coach Chip Kelly has already said that he won’t do that with defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil. Currently, San Francisco has the 30th ranked defense in yards per game (407.6 yards) and dead last in total points (219).
“(Jim and I) spend time together during the week,” Kelly said, via CSN Bay Area. “We carve out time in terms of how we watch film and what we do and understand the plan as we’re moving forward. There’s good communication going on form that standpoint. It’s not like I don’t know what’s going on on the defensive side of the ball.”
His attempt to deflect some of the blame is admirable, but when mixed with the resounding praise of the 49ers (1-6) best defensive players it becomes downright impossible to navigate. Is this a team that really believes in what they’re doing, or is it a team that is making an admirable last-gasp effort to prop up the coaches around them?
Linebacker Aaron Lynch said “We have the team. We possibly have one of the best teams in the NFL, easily. Hands down. We need to know how to keep finishing games and work together throughout the whole game. Once we get that down, nobody’s going to be able to mess with us.”
And safety Eric Reid: “I love this scheme. If everybody does their job, we shouldn’t get beat. But whenever there’s an explosive play, somebody is out of position. We just got to tighten up.”
And Ahmad Brooks: “Anything is fixable. I just think that the guys that get double-teamed maybe have to do a better job at taking on the double-team. I know that is difficult, but that is what we signed up for. The guys that are getting doubled have to be able to get off those double-teams and just try to do a better job.”
The 49ers have another coach on staff who was a defensive coordinator at the NFL level — former Raiders coordinator Jason Tarver. Other than that, the staff is an amalgamation of Kelly holdovers, 49ers holdovers and coaches O’Neil brought in with knowledge of the scheme. Kelly’s second staff in the NFL was always going to be a bit of a motley crew given the reputation he worked up for himself in Philadelphia — but does it allow him room to even make a significant alteration if he needed to?
The 49ers gave up 513 yards in their latest loss to the Buccaneers, which represented the sixth straight loss for a team that has two first-round picks at defensive tackle, two at safety and a horde of other high picks sprinkled throughout the defense.
The coordinator is not changing, nor is the entrenched general manager who made all those picks. But something will have to.