49ers

Kelly's rapport with Gamble paved way for 49ers reunion

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Kelly's rapport with Gamble paved way for 49ers reunion

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.

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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.”

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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.

49ers have great challenge defending Chiefs' Travis Kelce in Super Bowl LIV

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AP

49ers have great challenge defending Chiefs' Travis Kelce in Super Bowl LIV

SANTA CLARA – The Kansas City Chiefs employ an Olympic track team at the skill positions. That’s what it seems like with so many lightning quick parts of the pattern, who could combine to form one heck of a relay team.

Travis Kelce might never get the baton in that situation. He might not even be an alternate on the 4x100, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous as a receiving tight end.

He’s the best of this generation, certainly equal to 49ers tight end George Kittle as a receiver. Kelce was a second-team All-Pro behind Kittle this year after being named to the first team two of the past three seasons.

In short, he’s awesome. Kelce also adds another dimension to the passing game. He isn’t slow by any stretch, even if he’d never beat Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Waktins in a race.

He’s physical, quick and a human mismatch against linebackers and safeties alike. He’s someone the 49ers will focus on Feb. 2 in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“The dude is a receiving threat for sure,” 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner said. “They like to put him in a lot of different positions to get him to catch the ball, and he knows what to do with it after he catches it. So I mean, he's a mismatch for sure. You don't really know who to put on him. You put a safety on him, he's a bigger body. You put a linebacker on him, he's shifty, he's fast. So he's going to be a challenge for us for sure.”

The 49ers, however, are used to covering elite tight ends. They did it often in the offseason and training camp dealing with Kittle – top units play the scout team during a regular-season practice week – when first units clash.

Kittle studies him as much as anyone looking for tips in the game tape, and respects Kelce’s game.

“I've been a fan of Travis Kelce since he's been in the league,” Kittle said. “I watched his tape when I was in college. Watch his tape now. I get his games every single week so I can watch what he does. He's definitely one of the best in the game at what he does, receiving, just finding open spots. I got to meet Travis last year when we played him at the Chiefs. Had a jersey exchange after the season and then I met him again in Atlanta during the Super Bowl. So we definitely know each other. He's awesome.”

[RELATED: Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy indentifies 'heart and soul' of 49ers' defense]

He could be a headache running over the middle, especially on third down. Kelce led the NFL with 1,229 receiving yards on 97 catches on 130 targets, with 66 receptions going for a first down.

Kelce also knows how good the 49ers have been this season. According to pro-football-reference.com, they allowed a league-low 552 yards to tight ends, on 66 catches during the regular season. They have also given up six touchdowns to tight ends.

That’s why Kelce’s pouring focus into finding ways to game prep.

“I’m working hard, trying to figure out how to beat the 49ers,” Kelce said. “That has been the mindset every day since we won the AFC championship game. We have two weeks to prepare for the biggest game of my life, and the clock’s ticking.”

Super Bowl 54 odds: Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes clear favorite to win MVP

Super Bowl 54 odds: Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes clear favorite to win MVP

The 49ers' defense will closely watch Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV. Just over a week before the teams square off in Miami, oddsmakers have their eyes on the reigning NFL MVP, too. 

Mahomes is the odds-on favorite to be named Super Bowl MVP on Feb. 3, according to Caesars Palace. The third-year pro is listed at +105, while 49ers counterpart Jimmy Garoppolo has the second-best odds at +275.

It's hard to go wrong with a QB for Super Bowl MVP, considering a signal-caller has won the award 29 of 53 times. Mahomes arguably is the most exciting player in the NFL, too, orchestrating double-digit comebacks in each of the Chiefs' wins to advance out of the AFC to their first Super Bowl since 1970.

Caesars clearly are banking on Garoppolo driving the 49ers' bus rather than being a passenger. Garoppolo threw the ball a combined 27 times for 208 yards in San Francisco's first two playoff games after averaging 29.75 attempts per game during the regular season, and his odds indicate an expectation -- whether that's the sportsbook's or bettors' -- that he'll return to form in the Super Bowl.

[RELATED: How Kittle's run-blocking enthusiasm rubs off on 49ers]

Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Davis was the most recent running back to win Super Bowl MVP, and only six running backs have earned the honor. A tight end has never won it, and those notions are reflected in Raheem Mostert (+600) and George Kittle's (+1000) odds, respectively. Mostert is coming off a franchise-record-setting performance in the NFC Championship Game, while Kittle led the 49ers in receiving for the second straight season and graded out as Pro Football Focus' best player this season.

Given their role in the 49ers' offense, they'd seem to be decent longshots if San Francisco wins its sixth Super Bowl. As those who picked the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round can tell you, you ultimately bet against Mahomes at your own peril, though.