49ers

49ers fire head coach Chip Kelly after 2-14 season

49ers fire head coach Chip Kelly after 2-14 season

SANTA CLARA – Following a season of personal and professional anguish, Chip Kelly has been fired as the 49ers’ head coach.

CEO Jed York met with Kelly after the 49ers’ season finale Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks and fired him with three years remaining on a contract that reportedly pays him $6 million annually.

On Friday, York informed general manager Trent Baalke he was fired. Baalke led the past three coaching searches that resulted in the hirings of Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Kelly.

York issued the following statement Sunday evening:

“I have informed Trent and Chip of my decision to pursue new leadership for our football team. These types of conversations are never easy, especially when they involve people you respect personally and professionally. 
 
“Trent gave this organization every ounce of effort he had over the last 12 years and his contributions were integral to the team reaching three straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl. I will forever be grateful for his dedication to the 49ers, and his friendship to me and my family. I wish Trent, Beth and their daughters the very best in whatever the future holds for their family.
 
“Chip has my gratitude for the job he did this year, navigating the team through some adverse circumstances. I look forward to watching his career continue to unfold, and wish him and Jill great success in life.
 
“Despite my feelings for Trent and Chip, I felt the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary. 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.”

The 49ers plan to hire a coach-general manager team that will work together, a source told CSNBayArea.com. York and Paraag Marathe, the team’s chief strategy officer and executive vice president of football operations, are expected to lead the search to fill both positions.

Next season, the 49ers will have their fourth head coach in four seasons.

Harbaugh and the 49ers signed off on a “mutual parting” following an 8-8 season in 2014. Tomsula was fired after the 49ers fell to 5-1 in 2015. When Kelly was hired, CEO Jed York was asked about Kelly’s job security if the 49ers did not finish better than .500.

"Chip's going to be here for a long time, period,” York answered.

The 49ers had one of the worst seasons in franchise history in Kelly’s only season with the club. After an opening-week victory over the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers dropped a franchise-worst 13 consecutive games.

The 49ers ended their losing streak on Christmas Eve with a 22-21 victory over the Rams. The 49ers finished the season with a 2-14 record, matching the lowest win total in the 71-year history of the team. The 49ers also recorded two-win seasons in 1979, ’78 and ’63.

Kelly became the 49ers’ coach last January, just two weeks after the Philadelphia Eagles fired him near the end of his third season. After winning 10 games in each of his first two years, Kelly was let go when the Eagles dropped to 6-9 and out of playoff contention.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie famously stated at the press conference to announce Kelly’s firing that he wanted his next coach to have “emotional intelligence.”

While Kelly’s results on the field were abysmal, he appeared to be well-liked inside the 49ers’ locker room and within the organization. He was praised for his handling of the Colin Kaepernick protest, which became a national controversy. Kelly maintained Kaepernick was within his rights as an American to kneel for the national anthem as a way of protesting racial inequality.

“We recognize and respect Kap’s decision, and his constitutional rights to do what he’s doing,” Kelly said. “It’s sounds like it’s been a positive change. There’s been a lot of positive things come out of it.”

Kelly also received credit for keeping the energy positive and everybody on the same page despite all of the losing.

“Chip’s a great football coach,” 49ers veteran offensive tackle Joe Staley said last week. “Look at the team – he’s done a great job of keeping us together. We’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain as players as far as executing better.”

But the 49ers did not win games, and the promise of a new, cutting-edge offense never materialized.

At the press conference to announce Kelly’s hiring, York said, “I think Chip brings an innovative style to offense that is something that I think is synonymous with San Francisco 49er football.”

But that offense also lived up to all of its worst expectations. The opposition held the ball for an average of seven minutes more per game than the 49ers. That placed a burden on the other side of the ball, resulting in a league-high number of snaps that the 49ers’ defense was on the field.

The 49ers ranked last in the league in passing offense. Blaine Gabbert started the first five games of the season before his poor play led to his bench. Kaepernick was inserted into the lineup and showed improvement, but the 49ers’ passing game – with a group of receivers generally regarded as the worst in the NFL – continued to flounder.

The 49ers’ last-ranked defense, under coordinator Jim O’Neil, surrendered more total yards (6,502), points (480) and rushing yards (2,654) than any team in franchise history.

Moreover, the 49ers appeared incapable of making in-game adjustments and often faded in the second half of their games. The 49ers scored first in 11 games but were outscored 229-130 in the second half.

In addition to all of the 49ers’ struggles on the field, Kelly also experienced the death of his father, E. Paul Kelly, in early December.

After the 49ers landed in Chicago for the Dec. 4 game against the Bears, Kelly left the team to be with his family in the Northeast. He returned for the game, and the 49ers had one of their worst showings of the season in a 26-6 loss.

When asked if he considered not coaching in the game, Kelly told CSNBayArea.com, “My mom wanted me to coach.” His father was buried in a 49ers sweatsuit, Kelly later said.

Kelly made the jump to the NFL with the Eagles in 2013 after leading the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record and national prominence in four seasons with his high-tempo, explosive offense.

The 49ers will spend the early portion of their offseason making a third consecutive coaching hire. No team has had back-to-back one-year head coaches since the 49ers had three such coaches – Monte Clark, Ken Meyer and Pete McCulley – from 1976 to ’78. The 49ers fired McCulley after nine games.

In 1979, then-owner Eddie DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh.

NFL draft rumors: Nick Bosa early favorite to land with 49ers at No. 2

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NFL draft rumors: Nick Bosa early favorite to land with 49ers at No. 2

Within the past week, the 49ers sent representatives to the pro days of Alabama, Ohio State, and Kentucky.

The 49ers own the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. If they hold onto that selection, there appear to be only three players who warrant serious consideration:

--Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams met with 49ers general manager John Lynch and vice president of player personnel Adam Peters early in the week in Tuscaloosa.

--On Wednesday, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa had a late lunch with Lynch and Peters in Columbus.

--Two days later, Kentucky outside linebacker and edge rusher Josh Allen spent some time with 49ers area scout Steve Rubio, who also attended Ohio State’s pro day and dined with Bosa.

None of the top players worked out, each opting to stand on his marks from the testing at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month. Williams, Bosa, and Allen are scheduled to make visits to Santa Clara to meet with the 49ers before the draft.

The consensus opinion at this stage appears to be that Bosa will end up with the 49ers. But a lot can happen between now and April 25, when the first round of the NFL draft is held in Nashville.

First, the 49ers can only select Bosa if the Arizona Cardinals pass him up to choose Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick.

The 49ers could still entertain the possibility of trading back to acquire more picks, but there would have to be a team willing to pay the price to move up.

[RELATED: John Lynch says free agency set up 49ers for the draft]

While in Columbus, Lynch said the 49ers are still in the preliminary stages of their draft evaluations. He said the team filled holes in free agency, which enables the 49ers to select the player they evaluate to be the best in the draft, regardless of position.

“We’ve done a lot of work on those guys,” Lynch said. “We’ve done a lot of work on the entire draft class, but it really gets hyper-focused now. We’ve condensed a lot of information. Now the coaches come up and we put it all together.”

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

Kwon Alexander will fill Reuben Foster's void, John Lynch believes

49ers general manager John Lynch acknowledged that he signed Kwon Alexander to fill the void left by former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released last season. 

In an interview with 49ers.com, Lynch spoke about how he and his staff brought back several familiar faces to the linebackers room. He was also very frank about what the team lost in Foster as a player. 

“Let’s be honest,” Lynch said. “We had a void that we thought we had filled with Reuben Foster. Things transpired there. We had a void there and that stinks but you can’t just sit there and pout, you gotta say ‘OK, let’s do something.'

“We needed a dynamic football player at that position. It’s a very critical position in our scheme and this became the guy. Kwon became the guy that we wanted to be that guy.” 

Alexander has many of the same on-field characteristics as Foster. He’s known as a hard hitter who flies around the field, making players think twice about going across the middle. He may make some mistakes in the game, but his passion and heart are recognized by his teammates. 

“I think what stood out to us with Kwon,” Lynch said, “he’s a dynamic football player. He’s a tone setter. You need tone-setters on your defense. 

“I think he’s a guy that when you watch him, when you talk to people who played against him, people who played with him, he’s exactly that. His type of play running all over the field, hitting people, getting the ball, it’s contagious. We need that.” 

The 49ers' admiration for Alexander grew as they did more research on him. They understand it may take some time before he returns to 100 percent health.

[RELATED: Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity]

“The more we watched him the more we liked,” Lynch said. “We knew he was coming off an ACL injury but we got comfortable with the medical part and also got comfortable with 'Hey, we are going to wait as long as it takes.' This is a long-term investment. He’s doing very well in his rehab.” 

The staff ideally would like to see Alexander lined up next to Fred Warner, who had a stand-out rookie season. They also brought back Elijah Lee, special teams contributor Mark Nzeocha, and signed ex-Panther David Mayo to a two-year contract to fill out the linebackers room.