The San Francisco 49ers made a bold decision this week in hiring Chip Kelly to be the head coach for 2016 and beyond. The move could blow up in their face, or it could lead to playoff glory. There is a long spectrum of potential outcomes, and I don't think anybody can do more than wildly predict how this whole thing will end.
As interesting as the Kelly addition is for the on-field product, a big question also surrounds general manager Trent Baalke. Jed York made it clear Baalke is on the hot seat. Given that everybody else has been fired, the only guy left to really take the fall if things go south is Baalke. I suppose Mama and Papa York could decide Jed isn't suited for CEO work, but with the new stadium in place, I just don't see that happening. Nope, Trent Baalke is firmly on the chopping block, with 2016 being a huge year for his long-term status.
There are various reports suggesting that Tom Gamble was a big reason Chip Kelly is with the 49ers. He and Kelly are reportedly friends, and it makes sense that Kelly would push to have Baalke and York bring him on board. And considering the questions about Chip's personality, Gamble provides a buffer between Kelly and Baalke/York.
However, Gamble could very well be more than a buffer in the bigger picture. If this season turns out poorly, I don't see Chip's $6 million per year contract going anywhere. If the 2014 and 2015 draft picks do not show further development, Trent Baalke would seemingly be the next guy out the door. Of course, given that Baalke has maneuvered dangerous waters so well in recent years, maybe Gamble ends up as the fall guy if things go south.
None of this is to say it will go south quickly. Like I said, I have no idea what to make of how this all ends up. That's what makes it so fascinating. I realize some people are convinced this will end badly, but I'm at least willing to wait and see what 2016 brings. We'll see if Trent Baalke survives the year. I've attached a poll to see what people think. I realize he could be fired midway through a season, but let's keep it simple with the options.