Chip Kelly did not have many allies during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, but Tom Gamble was a definite exception.
Gamble’s affinity for Kelly proved to be a big reason Kelly landed back in the NFL with the 49ers two weeks after being fired.
Gamble and Kelly developed a good rapport during their time together with the Philadephia Eagles before Gamble was shoved out more than a year ago. Gamble joined the Eagles in February 2013 as vice president of player personnel.
Kelly, like many before him, found himself in a power struggle with general manager Howie Roseman. There were similar battles in the past with Gamble, Andy Reid, Tom Heckert and Jason Licht. Kelly temporarily won, taking over final say on personnel during his final year, until he was fired on Dec. 30 when the Eagles dropped out of playoff contention with a 6-9 record.
Gamble, who was hired back to the 49ers last January as senior personnel executive following his ouster in Philadelphia on New Year's Eve of 2014, spoke up for Kelly and played a pivotal role in helping Kelly get hired in his new role, sources told CSNBayArea.com on Thursday.
“Chip is not power hungry,” said a source familiar with the process that ended up with Kelly being hired by the 49ers. “All that was misrepresented in Philadelphia. He was not the only one to have problems there.”
Baalke will retain contractual power over the 49ers’ 53-man roster, which was never an element of the job on which Kelly insisted, according to the source. And, recently, Baalke said he will not shove any player down the throat of his head coach.
“Every coach that’s been here has had a great opportunity to have input,” Baalke said on Jan. 4. “Whether it’s the draft, whether it’s free agency, whether it’s impending trades, there’s no iron fist in this organization.”
A source said Kelly pursued the possibility of acquiring Colin Kaepernick from the 49ers. Now, Kelly has Kaepernick on his team and under contract through the 2020 season. If Kelly wants Kaepernick on the team, Kaepernick will likely remain.
Kelly is expected to sit down with Kaepernick at some point in the offseason before determining exactly how – or if – Kaepernick fits into his plans. Blaine Gabbert, who replaced Kaepernick as the starter for the final eight games of the season, is also under contract for next year.
The 49ers do not need to release Kaepernick, who is scheduled to make $14.3 million in salary and bonuses next season. Even with Kaepernick’s salary on the books, the 49ers are currently $50 million under the projected salary cap for next season.