New SF coach no ‘Chip’ off the old block

Brenda Brown,

If you are a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan like I am, then you have already heard the bleak prediction from the experts: The 49ers will go 0-16 this season.

No one is sure what to expect from new head coach Chip Kelly. Many characterized him as a “dictator” at the University of Oregon and with the Philadelphia Eagles — who fired him — and yet he was largely successful coaching both teams.

I am giving him a clean slate. Under Kelly, I predict that the 49ers will stumble a bit early on, but will find their footing and begin to win games by mid-season.

The team thrived under former head coach Jim Harbaugh from 2011 to 2014. They went to the playoffs three seasons in a row and the NFC championship game three times. They competed against — but unfortunately lost to — the Baltimore Ravens at Super Bowl 47, and went 8-8 the fourth season. But after Harbaugh was fired amidst clashes with general manager Trent Baalke, in came Jim Tomsula, who coached the 49ers to a 5-11 season with no prior experience as a head coach. Kelly can do better.

Kelly went 26-21 in his past three seasons with the Eagles, which doesn’t match up with Harbaugh’s 31-16-1, but is still a winning record. That of course excludes Harbaugh’s 13-3 record his first season with the 49ers. Keep in mind, both coaches came to the NFL after coaching college teams.

Kelly is not perfect. Critics say he struggled to transition from college players to the NFL’s alpha male personalities in Philadelphia. Buffalo Bills running back and former Philadelphia Eagle LeSean McCoy said Kelly got rid of the “good black players” and accused him of being racist. Kelly has a reputation of being hard to play for and has been accused of overworking the defense. As a result, the Eagles fired Kelly after week sixteen of the 2015 season.

Another big obstacle for Kelly are quarterbacks. The first five games of their schedule are notably tough, and we still don’t know if Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick will start. The season opener starts with the Rams, followed by the Panthers, Seahawks, Cowboys and Cardinals, all tough teams. We’re guaranteed to lose, so it will be a true test for Kelly and whichever quarterback he chooses.

The top two 49ers drafts are defensive lineman Deforest Buckner out of Oregon and guard Joshua Garnett out of Stanford. Garnett’s father, Scott Garnett, had a short stint as a 49ers player in 1985.

The current roster is a shell of what once was under Harbaugh and Tomsula, but Kelly is the answer to many of the problems the 49ers have incurred since Harbaugh’s firing. After a rough predicted start, Kelly will lead the 49ers to a .500 season, proving Las Vegas and the sports critics wrong. He is coaching a new team so therefore should be given a clean slate and a fresh start. As long as the 49ers improve by one win compared to last season, I can’t ask for much more than that.