The Chip Kelly Era begins with 49ers an amorphous blob


The Chip Kelly Era begins with 49ers an amorphous blob

There is a palpable “ummm” around the San Francisco 49ers these days. Not a hum, which is what you would expect with anticipation or excitement, but an “ummm,” as though one isn’t quite sure what to make of the new world order.

Or, frankly, even if there is one.

Yes, there is the new squinty-eyed face of C. Sherman Kelly, the man tasked with reinventing the face of the team (while still not having the power to fully affect the skeletal or vascular structure, which is for the moment the province of perpetually embattled general manager T. John Baalke). And we’ve all found amusement in the Colin Kaepernick tableau, in which his demotion coincided with his ascension to national touchstone.

But the 49ers as a football entity remain an amorphous blob, a team without expectations and with ready villains (Baalke and his boss, J. Edward York), thus making the start of the Kelly Era feel more like the end of some other era.

We’re just not sure whose.

It isn’t really the Harbaugh Era because that effectively ended when Jim was shown the door –- which was actually more than a year before he actually used it.

It isn’t the Tomsula Era, for reasons too obvious to explain again here.

It isn’t the Kaepernick Era, because as much throw-weight as we imagine he has had in San Francisco, he has started essentially fewer than three full seasons, and isn’t starting now. Backup quarterbacks don’t get eras.

It isn’t the York Era, because we are only in year 17 of a tenure that could last another 50, and there are still bales of tales to absorb between now and then.

It might be the Baalke Era, though a cursory search of his office will show that he is still at his desk and as such hasn’t finished defining his era yet. Don’t forget how two years ago, Reggie McKenzie was mocked as the worst general manager in football.

Eras are funny that way. They change until someone else comes in to start a new one.

So there isn’t a lot that is actually new here except Kelly, and he cannot fully be held responsible unless and until he has assembled a team he can truly call his own, in much the same way that it took the Raiders a few years to disentangle themselves from the Al Davis way of doing things and to whom they were being done.

And if you have neither expectations nor an unambiguous change in direction, nor even an easily scapegoatable on-field figure, what have you got, other than 16 games just like all the other years when you had 16 games?

Therein lies the problem with following the 2016 49ers. There is a new coach, working with an old roster and operating under the structure of the two coaches before him. The two people in charge of the non-game day machinations are still in charge, with the only difference being that there are no more lofty expectations beyond, “Get your league dues in on time, and don’t forget to turn up on Sundays.”

There will be a lot more pressure on Kelly in subsequent years, to be sure. The 49er job is a highly-paid abuse magnet, after all, which is why Jed York has always had a fixation on making the coach “the face of the franchise” despite the fact that the fan base decides organically whom the face actually is, and can sometimes do so by flying planes over the stadium and explaining just who they actually think is responsible for that sucking noise.

But for now, Kelly is in charge of something that isn’t fully his, and there is much transitioning still to do. Credit where due, he has deftly navigated the potential minefield of Kaepernick, which is a sign that he has not only learned from Philadelphia but is a nimble thinker when confronted with new problems. In short, he seems to have developed flexibility where once there was only evidence of a rigid my way-to-highway ratio.

But is this the Kelly Era? Certainly not, except in the technical sense. This is his mulligan year, which he as a fellow Irishman should understand. The 49ers are not his team, not yet. But it will be, and it will great fun watching how this happens, how quickly it happens, and how many people won't be here when it does. It's just standard era management in the modern era.

49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks


49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks

The 49ers hosted two veteran cornerbacks on free-agent visits the past two days and could be signing either Jaylen Watkins or LaDarius Gunter as they wind down their activity on the free-agent market.

“We’re really pleased with what we’ve done,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday. “I’ll never say never. We’ve had a couple of guys visit in the last couple of days. Perhaps we’ll do something there. But for the most part, we’re wrapped up and pleased with what we’ve been able to do.”

The 49ers do not have much depth behind presumptive starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. The team is also likely to add to its depth in the draft.

The 49ers met with Gunter (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) on Thursday. Gunter, 25, started 15 games for the Green Bay Packers in 2016. He recorded 54 tackles and broke up 12 passes. He signed with the Packers in 2015 as an undrafted rookie from Miami.

Gunter was waived at the beginning of last season and the Carolina Panthers claimed him. He appeared in just four games with Carolina, which did not tender him as a restricted free agent.

The 49ers on Wednesday met with Watkins, 26, a versatile defensive back who appeared in 36 games with five starts in four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watkins (5-11, 195) played three snaps on defense and 17 plays on special teams in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. He entered the NFL in 2014 as a fourth-round draft pick from Florida.

Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'


Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'

STANFORD – Free-agent safety Eric Reid chatted with 49ers general manager John Lynch on the sideline, then moved into position onto the field for an up-close view of his brother’s pro day workout Thursday at Stanford University.

Younger brother, Justin, is aiming to be a first-round draft pick like Eric, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Both football futures of the Reid brothers remain uncertain. Justin's fate will be determined on draft day. Eric Reid remains in limbo as an NFL free agent. He has not gotten any action in the first week of free agency, and the 49ers have not made him a contract offer, he said.

But Lynch said the 49ers are closely monitoring Reid’s situation. However, the organization already has three safeties they like: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert.

“Eric played and played well for us last year,” Lynch said. “I think he’s stuck in a safety market that’s been quiet. And I would anticipate things starting to shake for him and we’ll see.

“I’d never say never. I really do think opportunities will start to come his way. We’ve been monitoring it closely and we’ll see how that shakes out.”

Reid, 26, a six-year NFL veteran, said his agent has spoken recently to “a couple of teams,” but no contracts or visits have been proposed.

Reid’s market might be impacted by his up-front role in the protests of racial inequality of the past two seasons. Reid and Colin Kaepernick were the first players to take a knee during the national anthem at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Reid said he would probably not take part in any future protests during the national anthem.

“From the beginning, Colin has been flexible,” Reid said. “He started by sitting. He changed it up. We decided to kneel. And we understand that you got to change with the times. So I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country to improve on.

“I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem, because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”

Reid said he has no regrets. He said he is willing to deal with the consequences of how NFL teams viewed his role in the protests.

“I stand by what I’ve done,” Reid said. “I know why I’ve done it. My faith in God is the reason. I can go to sleep at night confident I did what I was called to do. I’m just gong to stay positive and keep trying to stay in shape and wait and see what happens.

“I said at the end of last season I’m OK no matter what happens.”