49ers fire Chip Kelly, Trent Baalke in major reset

Chip Kelly leaves the field after the 49ers' loss to Seattle on Sunday. Kelly was fired after a 2-14 season with San Francisco. Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco 49ers are hitting reset.

Chip Kelly was fired by the organization Sunday after only one season as the team's coach, the 49ers announced. General manager Trent Baalke confirmed earlier in the day that he also had been relieved of his duties.

“Despite my feelings for Trent and Chip, I felt the decision to change our football leadership was absolutely necessary," 49ers owner Jed York said in a statement. "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.”

San Francisco went 2-14 in Kelly's lone season. The team also fired Jim Tomsula after just one season at the conclusion of last year's campaign.

The 49ers will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. ET on Monday.

While fresh start makes sense, Chip Kelly deserved better from 49ers


SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Even at the very end of his tenure of less than one calendar year with the San Francisco 49ers, Chip Kelly refused to make excuses or point fingers for what was about to happen.

“It’s a bottom-line business," Kelly said after Sunday's season-ending loss to Seattle. "So, we probably didn’t win enough games.”

About two hours later, Kelly was proved correct as the 49ers fired him. The 2-14 Niners didn't win enough games, and that ultimately led to his becoming the third coach to depart the organization in as many years and the second in a row to do so after just one season at the helm.

For anyone who watched the Niners flail their way to just two wins against the equally lowly Los Angeles Rams and set franchise records for longest losing streak and yards, rushing yards and points allowed, it's not hard to understand why CEO Jed York found it important to make sweeping changes.

All of that, including Kelly's dismissal, is understandable. But Kelly deserved better. He didn't deserve to get just one year to turn around a team that was devoid of difference-makers at almost every position. He didn't deserve to have his imminent dismissal leaked the Saturday night before his final game. And he especially didn't deserve it in light of the fact that he showed loyalty to the franchise amid plenty of questions about his returning to college football during the season.

When Kelly signed on with the Niners last January, York said he expected Kelly to be with the team "for a long time." By Sunday night, 347 days later, York and the Niners released a statement saying it was "absolutely necessary" to fire Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke. What happened in the time between those statements would indicate that perhaps it was absolutely necessary, but it could have been handled better.

While the Niners went from a five-win team in 2015 to a two-win team in 2016, Kelly wasn't in charge of the roster. If the Niners were going to make sweeping changes, last year would have been the time to do it. Instead, Kelly and Baalke ended up in an arranged marriage with little chance for a quick turnaround.

As the losses piled up -- 13 in a row at one point -- the Niners gravitated toward Kelly, who never wavered despite the team's woeful record.

“The biggest thing is, can relate to football but more so relates to life, and that’s not letting your circumstances dictate your attitude and how you approach a situation," quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. "Once again, our circumstances weren’t the best this year, but our team came out, we played hard every week. We played for each other each week, and that was something that I look at as something I can take moving forward and make sure I can continue to do that.”

To hear 49ers players talk about Kelly after Sunday's game, even before he'd been fired, was to understand whatever Kelly's reputation in Philadelphia was, it hadn't carried over to the Bay Area. The Niners respected Kelly for the way he took care of them with his schedule and for how he handled adverse situations. When Kelly's father died just a couple of days before the Chicago game and he coached anyway, players spoke passionately about trying to get a win for him.

Kelly also earned points for how he handled Kaepernick's national anthem protest. When he publicly backed Kaepernick for standing up for what he believed, his players followed suit.

Then, as rumors swirled that Kelly would leave San Francisco for a job at Oregon or another plum college gig, Kelly never deviated from his commitment, saying he would never leave a job while he has one.

"He’s a good dude," receiver Torrey Smith said. "I understand the business side of it. I think he’s a good coach. I think he’s a better person. But that’s how this business goes. They let good people in tough spots. When we lose like we did and have a season like we had, changes are made or can be made. From coaches to players, it’s all of us, and we were all a part of the problem. That’s why our record was what it was."

Even as the season wound to a close and the Niners seemingly put someone new on injured reserve every day, Kelly kept his focus on the task at hand.

"There was a time in the last two weeks -- I mean, I looked around the locker room and there were guys who, I didn't even know what their names were," left tackle Joe Staley said. "We had a ton of injuries coming down the stretch ... and nobody really blinked. Everybody was just kind of coming into work. We could have really, really, really lost this football team. And I thought [Kelly] did a good job of just keeping everybody focused throughout this kind of crappy season."

Ultimately, Kelly's approach might not have worked in the long term. Moving on from him now gives the Niners a chance to start fresh with a general manager and a coach who can work together to rebuild the franchise. That's part of the business.

But the most successful organizations also have a knack for handling those business decisions in a decidedly more compassionate way.

NFL coaching rumors: Chargers fire Mike McCoy, 49ers sack Chip Kelly

Mike McCoy’s tenure as head coach of the San Diego Chargers didn’t make it very far into 2017. Chip Kelly is done in San Francisco, too, making it six NFL teams now in search of a new head coach.

Kelly was told by the 49ers shortly after his team concluded their season with loss No. 14, a 25-23 result at home against the Seattle Seahawks. Kelly will now be moving on from his second head job in as many years after being let go by the Eagles last year, and San Francisco will be looking for their third coach in the last three years after giving Jim Tomsula and Kelly each one year following the “departure” of Jim Harbaugh.

“Chip has my gratitude for the job he did this year, navigating the team through some adverse circumstances,” 49ers owner Jed York said in a statement. “I look forward to watching his career continue to unfold, and wish him and Jill great success in life.”

The 49ers are going to be owing $50 million to coaches and, while the 49ers were playing, General Manager Trent Baalke confirmed that he too is goner, saying he’d been fired Sunday in a radio interview.

For McCoy, he was informed shortly after his squad lost its season finale Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-27. McCoy went 5-11 in his fourth season in San Diego, after posting a 4-12 record last year. He went 9-7 in each of his first two seasons with the Chargers, splitting two games in the 2013 playoffs.

Among the losses this season was the first and only victory for the Cleveland Browns, a Week 16 embarrassment that may have sealed McCoy’s fate. His team played through a number of injuries to significant players this year, but McCoy had the services of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers for every game he coached in San Diego.

“Mike McCoy is a man of high character, and we thank him for his dedication to the Chargers,” the Chargers president, John Spanos, said in a statement. “The decision to dismiss Mike was made in the best interests of our franchise. Our team’s disappointing performance has not matched this team’s potential and has fallen short of the demanding standards that we seek to impose throughout our organization. Our comprehensive search for a new head coach begins immediately.”

In addition to the injuries, which felled the likes of Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, McCoy had to deal with the difficult dynamic of the Chargers’ likely move to Los Angeles after this season. However, this year’s team developed a habit of losing close games in the fourth quarter, and as San Diego pointed out in its news release, he went 7-17 against AFC West rivals in his four seasons.

“I want to thank Mike for his tireless work and commitment to this organization,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “He instilled a culture of work ethic and togetherness that we can build on for years to come.”

Last week, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick lamented how NFL coaching changes come “earlier and earlier,” but this probably wasn’t what he meant.

Belichick was talking about the quick hook, the fact that coaches are operating under the “win now” mantra. This season, though, that has morphed into three coaching vacancies heading into the regular-season finales Sunday, with the Chargers adding another before the day was over. So much for “Black Monday,” with the Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills already having fired their head coaches.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s next for some other coaches:


Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts. This rests in the hands of Colts owner Jim Irsay, the most mercurial and unpredictable of NFL owners. There was speculation a year ago that Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson were on the hot seat — and Grigson remained and Pagano got a four-year contract extension.

[Is this the year a coach gets traded?]

The Colts are 7-8 and, once again, it is glaringly apparent that quarterback Andrew Luck is not surrounded by the kind of players (read: offensive lineman) who can help him to prosper. That falls on Grigson. Here’s what we know now: Irsay, whom Tony Kornheiser calls the mad tweeter, is unhappy.


Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals. The rumors surrounding Arians align more with retirement than dismissal. Arians’s Cardinals have been disappointing and he briefly was checked out at a hospital for chest pains midseason. Arians is 40-22-1 in his four seasons in the desert and went 9-3 as a head coach when he was subbing for the Colts’ Pagano during his treatment for leukemia. There’s no compelling reason to think that Arians will quit or be fired despite a 6-8 season in a dismal NFC West.

Todd Bowles, New York Jets. The Jets, as expected, announced after their fifth victory that Todd Bowles will return in 2017, as will General Manager Mike Maccagnan. However, the New York Daily News reports that changes to Bowles’s staff may be afoot. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is not considered likely to return for Bowles’s fourth season with the team.

John Fox, Chicago Bears. A three-win season isn’t likely to bring a coaching change, not for a coach whose starting quarterback for much of the season was Jay Cutler. His team is on its fourth quarterback of the season and, despite having 19 players on injured reserve, has played well against playoff contenders like the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. Expect him to return for his third season in Chicago.

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens and Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals. If their teams don’t make the playoffs next season, there may be changes. But not yet. Harbaugh plans to return, likely with a new offensive coordinator, and Lewis has said he has no plans to retire. Nor are the Bengals the kind of team known for firing a coach and paying to sit idle.


Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. The Rams need a big-name coach with a Super Bowl on his resume in La La Land. Might a trade with the New Orleans Saints be in the offing? CBS Sports reports that a Payton trade, either to the Rams or Chargers, is a possibility and that the Saints are already considering Doug Marrone, who is interviewing with the Jaguars. Trading Payton, who is one of the NFL’s highest-compensated coaches, would save New Orleans roughly $40 million.

As for Payton’s feelings on the matter, a week ago he reportedly was monitoring the L.A. situation, so don’t be surprised if there’s a trade of the kind not seen since 2002. That year, Oakland let Coach Jon Gruden go to Tampa Bay in exchange for first- and second-round picks, a first-rounder in 2003 and a second-rounder in 2004. Of course, Gruden also got a truckload of money out of the transaction in addition to the chance to beat the Raiders, the team he helped rebuild, in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.

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