The San Francisco 49ers will enter the 2017 season with their fourth different head coach in four seasons.
The team announced the firings of coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke following Sunday’s 25-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“Despite my feelings for Trent and Chip, I felt the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary,” owner Jed York said in a statement released by the 49ers. “The performance of this team has not lived up to my expectations or those of our fans, and that is truly disappointing. We all expected to see this team progress and develop as the season went on, but unfortunately that did not happen. That is why now is the time to find a new direction for this team.”
Handed one of the NFL’s most barren rosters, Kelly directed San Francisco to a 2-14 record — tied for the lowest single-season mark in franchise history.
Kelly took the league by storm early in his Philadelphia tenure, winning 19 of his first 28 contests while his innovative offense flirted with 30 points per game. As defenses caught on to Kelly’s uptempo read-option attack, though, the effectiveness waned. His teams have gone 9-26 over the past 35 games, with the scoring dwindling to 21.4 points per game and the worn-out defense unable to hold up its end of the bargain.
It’s fair to wonder if a high-profile college program will lure Kelly back to the NCAA, closing the books on his four-year NFL stint.
Replacing the coaching staff and general manager means York will swallow a $30 million pill, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Although Baalke was voted NFL Executive of the Year in 2011 by the Pro Football Writers of America, his personnel has disintegrated since winning a power struggle with former coach Jim Harbaugh after the 2014 season.
The 49ers boasted perhaps the league’s deepest roster during Harbaugh’s three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship Game. After a series of sparse drafts to go with the failed regimes of Jim Tomsula and Kelly, though, the team’s core lacks impact players much less a face of the franchise.
Baalke was not blindsided by York’s decision to go in another direction.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Baalke said, via KNBR-AM in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. “We’ve done some awful good things. Some very successful seasons. Unfortunately regret we weren’t able to bring a championship to the Bay Area, which they so deserve.”
York will now be tasked with identifying a head coach and general manager capable of working in tandem, reconstructing the organization from ground up. With no franchise quarterback on the horizon and just a handful of legitimate building blocks in place, returning the 49ers to glory will be a long, arduous process.