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.