SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers have gone down this road before, recently hiring a college coach seen as a strict disciplinarian who, well, wore out his welcome in his previous stop.
Chip Kelly, thy name is Jim Harbaugh?
“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” Niners left guard Alex Boone said of Harbaugh last spring for the HBO “Real Sports” cameras. “But after a while, you just want to kick his ass ... he just keeps pushing you, and you're like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.’
“I think he just pushed guys too far. He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much. You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this.’ And you'd be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane. He's crazy.’”
Boone, who had been Harbaugh’s staunchest public defender during the coach's last season with the 49ers in 2014, echoed the vibe that accompanied Kelly out of Philadelphia when the Eagles fired him with one game to go in his third season this December.
Too strict. Too demanding. Too harsh. Too controlling.
Or did you not read last summer’s Washington Post feature that painted Kelly and his coaching methods as “Orwellian,” his demand that Eagles players provide daily urine samples to check their hydration levels while keeping track of their sleep patterns and heart rates?
“There’s plenty of weirdos in the NFL,” the Post wrote, quoting a former Kelly player. “He’s just a different kind of weirdo.”
Unless you like practicing to the musical stylings of Ricky Martin and The Lion King.
“Regardless, each day, players were greeted at the team facility by screens revealing who had completed the morning routine -- an iPad soreness and mood survey, the results of a heart-rate monitor, and of course the urine test -- showing players’ head shots and a background that turned green when the daily assessment was completed,” the Post reported.
“Most people were very receptive to it, [but] some guys were like: ‘What are we doing; why are we doing this?’ ” a former Eagles player said in the article, adding as quickly as players learned how to cheat the hydration test, adding a splash of water from the urinal, Kelly ordered the system revamped to discourage diluters.
How will this overseer mentality play in Santa Clara?
Guess I might have to start running right now to get in shape
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) January 14, 2016
Happy and excited. https://t.co/mVlBoDufNd
— jarryd hayne (@JarrydHayne) January 14, 2016
🤔...I wonder who the DC will be
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) January 14, 2016
Congrats to chip . Won a lot games together in college excited about working to do that at this level
— Arik Armstead (@arikarmstead) January 15, 2016
Even right tackle Anthony Davis, who seems to think he will be welcomed back by the 49ers after retiring suddenly after the draft and offseason program and criticizing the play of left tackle Joe Staley on Twitter, had a take on Kelly's hiring and accompanying high-octane offense.
I love playing in offenses that are a pain in the ass for teams to prepare for. Once a Dfense is questioning if they're prepared, they're 💀.
— AD (@BamDavis_) January 14, 2016
The 49ers’ divorce from Harbaugh, who came to San Francisco from Stanford, was a messy one, what with two alpha dogs in Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke in the house. Obviously Baalke and 49ers CEO Jed York believe Kelly’s Harbaugh-esque personality will be palatable this time around.
So long as there’s no grousing from 49ers players like what surrounded Kelly in Philadelphia.
“The relationship was never really great,” former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy told ESPN The Magazine last spring. “I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that's the way he runs his team. He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That's the truth. There's a reason. ... It's hard to explain with him. But there's a reason he got rid of all the black players -- the good ones -- like that.”
After Kelly, who followed up a pair of 10-6 seasons and a division title with a 6-9 pratfall this year, was fired by Philadelphia, former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson told Sports Illustrated: “I’m a firm believer that bad karma comes back on you. When you ruin a team like that, you do things to peoples’ families, you release people, you trade people, you get rid of good players who build something with the community, with the fans, with the kids -- to have a guy come in and change up the team like that, I just believe in karma.”
San Francisco could be Kelly’s chance to show what he learned from his mistakes in Philadelphia, real and imagined. Without running the 49ers personnel department -- that’s Baalke’s domain -- Kelly can focus on coaching. And winning games, like Harbaugh did in his first three years with the 49ers.
Then there’s this: As college head coaches, Harbaugh and Kelly met face-to-face twice. Stanford won, 51-42, in 2009; Oregon prevailed, 52-31, in 2010.