Kelly won't change his ways with 49ers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Chip Kelly can handle the chatter and criticism, from his own players and otherwise.
Moving way out West might be among the only major changes he's planning as the new 49ers coach, with the unrepentant Kelly insisting he is perfectly content letting general manager Trent Baalke call the shots when it comes to personnel and the 53-man roster so he can focus on his job: Bringing a sixth Super Bowl trophy back to this storied franchise.
"I want to just coach football," Kelly said Wednesday when he was formally introduced at Levi's Stadium. "I'm hands on. I lead with my feet, not with my seat."
And, no, he's not ready to name Colin Kaepernick his quarterback — though Kelly likes both Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, who ended the season as San Francisco's starter. Both quarterbacks have stopped by team headquarters to say hello to their new coach in person.
Kaepernick is recovering from surgery on the thumb of his throwing hand to repair a torn ligament, a procedure on his left knee and an operation on his non-throwing left shoulder to fix a torn labrum. His $11.9 million 2016 contract becomes fully guaranteed for injury April 1 if he's on the roster.
"Obviously, Kap is an extremely talented football player and you need to have a good quarterback to win," Kelly said. "But I was also impressed in the film I watched in terms of how Blaine played this year also. Both of those players made this an attractive situation."
Fired for the first time in his career by the Eagles after Week 16, Kelly was out of work for all of two weeks before landing a $24 million, four-year contract to coach the 49ers last Thursday. Kelly indicated the Eagles would be responsible for paying about half of the $13 million he was owed for the final two seasons on his contract with Philadelphia.
When asked whether he left a bad taste with players in Philadelphia, Kelly said, "I'm not governed by the fear of what other people say."
"I don't know if I can be significantly different. I think you have to be yourself in terms of how you do things," Kelly said. "But we all learn."
In fact, he said of losing his job with the Eagles, "I looked at it as more of an autopsy."
Baalke traveled 13,000 miles over 10 days during his coaching search a year after the 49ers promoted former defensive line coach Jim Tomsula for one disappointing, 5-11 season at the helm. Baalke's trip included a five-hour meeting with Kelly in New Hampshire during which the coach's golden retriever, Henry, sat on Baalke's lap for more than 2½ hours and did some serious shedding.
They still struck a deal and discovered a similar football vision.
"We've been working tirelessly to get the 49ers back to championship form," CEO Jed York said. "The first big step is hiring the right head coach."
York doesn't plan on hiring another head coach anytime soon, even if the turnaround takes time, saying: "Chip's going to be here for a long time. Period."
Before Jim Harbaugh's last season in 2014, the 49ers reached three straight NFC championship games and lost in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season. Kelly realizes the immediate challenge he faces coaching in the NFC West against Seattle's Pete Carroll — a former nemesis in the college game when Carroll was at USC and Kelly at Oregon — Arizona's Bruce Arians and Rams coach Jeff Fisher.
"It's an unbelievable standard," Kelly said. "Seattle's been to the last two Super Bowls. Bruce has a legitimate chance with his team this year to go to it. ... The NFC West is stacked. But that excites you."
Kelly is working to finalize his coordinators, with Mike Vrabel expected to be in the mix for the defensive job. Running backs coach Tom Rathman has been retained. Kelly plans to call the plays from the sidelines but doesn't plan to "micromanage" his coaches.
He won't tolerate legal run-ins by the 49ers, a problem for this franchise in recent years, saying it's a "privilege" to play in the NFL.
"There are laws in this country for a reason and we need to adhere by those laws," Kelly said.
Kelly said he is motivated by the Bay Area's innovation.
"It's probably the most fertile, creative ground around here when you look at the companies and Silicon Valley and the whole Bay Area itself," he said. "I walked to work this morning and you smell the air around here, you get smarter. So, hopefully that'll teach us to get a couple more W's."