Kelly needs another upset of Belichick to avoid tying 49ers' record

Kelly needs another upset of Belichick to avoid tying 49ers' record

SANTA CLARA – Chip Kelly lost only seven games in four seasons as Oregon head coach.

Last year, his Philadelphia Eagles had a three-game losing streak when his team went on the road to produce one of the big upsets of the NFL season, a 35-28 victory over the New England Patriots.

On Sunday, Kelly will require an even-more-unlikely happening against his old friend, Bill Belichick, to avoid matching the 49ers franchise record with a ninth consecutive loss.

Kelly and Belichick have a friendship that was forged more than a decade ago when Kelly was an assistant at New Hampshire. He would regularly visit Patriots training camp and practices as a guest.

“Chip’s a New England guy,” Belichick said this week on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “We go back a ways.

“We had a good opportunity to exchange some ideas and thoughts about a lot of things. I think Chip has a lot of great ideas. We'd talk about his overall organization, whether it’s offensive system, practice schedule, training, so forth. Ee talk about a lot of those things and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Said Kelly, “When you get a chance to watch arguably one of the best coaches in the history of the game coach on a daily basis, how organized he is, how detailed he is, how in tune he is to putting his players in position to make plays and just really how gracious and nice he is. I don’t know if the media always sees that side of him, but (he is) extremely outgoing, smart, personable.”

Kelly had something to offer Belichick, too. Kelly had installed an up-tempo attack at New Hampsire that he took to Oregon and the NFL. Belichick is among the NFL coaches to draw on facets of that approach. Kelly has also been on the cutting edge of implementing sports science, with particular emphasis on recovery.

Belichick said he has taken plenty in the give-and-take relationship the coaches have enjoyed through the years.

“Absolutely, he had some great ideas that we’ve incorporated on a number of different levels -- some X’s and O’s but I’d say less that and more other things involved in the program,” Belichick said.

A year ago, Kelly’s Eagles had the upper hand against the Patriots. The game would ultimately be the highlight of Kelly’s final season in Philadelphia. The Eagles overcame a 14-0 deficit with 35 consecutive points, including return touchdowns on a blocked punt, interception and punt. Kelly was fired three weeks later.

Belichick said the 49ers are running much of the same offense as the Eagles did a year ago. The only difference, of course, is the players running the offense are different. Colin Kaepernick on Sunday will make his fifth start since replacing Blaine Gabbert as the starter.

“They produced some explosive plays the last couple of weeks, and that helped their offense,” Belichick said. “They attack the whole field. They do a good job of getting the ball inside, outside, catch-and-run plays, downfield plays. You have to defend every yard of the turf.”

Kelly would become the only coach in 49ers history with nine consecutive losses. Bill Walsh (1980), Steve Mariucci (1999) and Mike Nolan (2007) were at the helm for eight-game losing streaks. During the 49ers’ franchise-worst nine-game skid in 1978, Pete McCulley was fired and replaced by Fred O’Connor after the streak reached four games.

The NFL changed the definition of the 'catch rule' again and it won't be the last time


The NFL changed the definition of the 'catch rule' again and it won't be the last time

I’m going to miss “surviving the ground.” I’m going to miss “completing the process,” too. But I won’t miss the way the NFL rules committee likes to use words to refine officials’ training. That, fortunately, will never end.

After all, I believe the NFL has been marching boldly toward creating a sport that the people who are paid to play it and pay to watch it do not understand, and that’s a level of chaos I can enjoy because if we know anything at all about the NFL, it is that it has three levels of problem-solving.

#1 -- Denying that a problem exists, and calling people who say it does know-nothings, morons and potentially liable in a lawsuit.

#2 -- Admitting a problem exists only after years of careful study in which it starts with the desired result and then tailors any fact-finding to reach that result.

#3 -- Implementing a solution that solves nothing, and in doing so either makes the original problem worse or replaces it with a more vexing problem.

In fact, vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said that very thing in explaining the plan to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske. “We worked backward,” he said. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule. Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that. Going to the ground, it looks like that’s going to be eliminated. And we’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable.”

Of course, Vincent was also required to explain why “surviving the ground” and “completing the process” made sense when those were introduced, so let’s move past all that to the real issue here.

Football is essentially ungovernable, and becoming more so with each additional year. Part of it is the dichotomy between making a violent game less violent without making it sufficiently less violent. Part of it is large, fast people being asked to play at full speed to strike smaller targets. Part of it is taking simple common sense as a judgment tool away from officials because at its heart, the decision-makers hate its officials and give them increasingly absurd things to adjudicate on the fly and then punish them when it can’t be done.

And part of it is old football coaches being asked to tailor their sport to meet the entertainment demands of a younger demographic that isn’t sitting still for a convoluted game that lasts three hours. This is another way of saying that football is slowly but surely being viewed by the younger generation as “your dad’s game,” and are going to basketball or e-sports or even no sports at all for their fun.

In other words, the league is trying to change a rule to address a rule that was introduced to change a rule to take judgment from people who are supposed to apply structure to a game that already had plenty of it.

So the catch rule will be changed yet again, and in two years the complaints about that rule will overwhelm the league again. We will go from "surviving the ground" to "mastering the air space" or someone equally nonsensical verbiage, and the idea of simplifying a rule book that is beating the game it explains across our skulls is simply beyond these guys.

Ex-49er Daniel Kilgore describes 'crazy,' 'frustrating,' 'heart-breaking' week


Ex-49er Daniel Kilgore describes 'crazy,' 'frustrating,' 'heart-breaking' week

Daniel Kilgore’s mind was at ease on Feb. 14 after signing a three-year contract extension to remain with the 49ers – the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

But all that changed on the first day of the open negotiating period when he learned the 49ers reached an agreement with New York Giants free-agent Weston Richburg on a five-year contract. The same firm, Rep1, represents Kilgore and Richburg.

“Originally, I knew Weston was on the Niners’ board for left guard,” Kilgore said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “When I knew that he was going to sign with the 49ers, I was thinking, ‘Hey, we just got a new left guard.’ I hate it for Laken (Tomlinson).

“But, then, you kind of find out he was coming for center. That’s when I was thrown for a loop.”

Kilgore described the days that followed as “crazy,” “frustrating” and “heart-breaking.”

One day after the 49ers officially signed Richburg to a five-year, $47.5 million contract, Kilgore was traded to the Miami Dolphins. The 49ers got little in return for delivering Kilgore to what appears to be a good situation. The team’s swapped draft spots in the seventh round, with the 49ers now choosing at No. 223 overall, while the Dolphins pick at No. 227.

Kilgore lands in a situation to be a starter. He also received, in essence, a 13.3-percent raise for leaving California to go to Florida, where there is no state income tax. The 49ers structured Kilgore's contract so the first payout of a $2.3 million roster bonus was scheduled for after the start of the new league year – after the trade. The Dolphins pick up the entirety of the three-year, $11.75 million contract the 49ers negotiated with Kilgore.

Kilgore said he was never asked to compete for a job at guard with the 49ers. He said he did not request a trade, either. He was told, in essence, he was no longer in the 49ers’ plans.

General manager John Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area last week both Richburg and Kilgore are best at center. To ask either to submit to a change of position would set up one of them for failure.

Looking back, Kilgore said he wonders if he should have turned down the 49ers’ offer and gone into free agency. But that approach had its risks, too. All he wanted, he said, was to be compensated fairly and remain with the 49ers.

“I was really thrown for a shock,” said Kilgore, who won the Bobb McKittrick Award last season for his displays of courage, intensity and sacrifice. “You just wonder, ‘What If I did go free agency?’ (But) that wasn’t me. I knew where that team was going. I’m familiar with the area, familiar with the coaching staff, my best friends are on the team. So I knew this is where I wanted to be. I didn’t see myself going anywhere else.”

Now, he will be moving to South Florida, where he will attempt to establish what he felt he had with the 49ers.

“You want to be there and be a part of something on the rise," Kilgore said. "That was the frustrating thing, that you’re no longer going to be there. It’s frustrating and heart-breaking, but you move on. I’m going to South Florida, and that makes things a heck of a lot better.”

Kilgore said he had some hard conversations with Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan last week. Ultimately, he said he respects both men for the way they handled an awkward situation. Lynch said last week when the 49ers signed Kilgore to an extension, the club believed there was a likelihood Richburg would not still be available a month later as a free agent. Richburg was the only center the 49ers would have sought to replace Kilgore, Lynch said.

“I hope the fans out there know the truth about everything and know that Kyle and John did it in the best interest of me and the best interest for the team moving forward,” Kilgore said. “There’s no bad grudges or anything like that. We’re all still friends at the end of the day.”