The San Francisco 49ers decision to hire Chip Kelly as their new head coach raised plenty of questions about how Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke would get along. Reports out of Philadelphia suggested Kelly wanted more personnel power, while Baalke has consolidated his power in Santa Clara. After getting fired in Philadelphia, Kelly apparently told Jay Glazer he was just looking to coach and did not want the extra personnel power.
We are a month removed from Kelly's hiring, and according to Trent Baalke, so far so good with this relationship. Baalke addressed the relationship in his Combine press conference, and then again during an interview he conducted with KNBR. The most interesting comment might have been when he said Kelly has been very easy to work with, but they have not spent a ton of time together thus far.
Baalke was down in San Diego for a significant period with scouts, preparing for the draft. The stadium was occupied by the NFL for the Super Bowl, so the scouting department decided to take this show on the road. There is no word on exactly what Kelly is involved with related to the draft. Since he did not speak at the Combine, and seems unlikely to speak to the media until the first round of the NFL Draft wraps up (or maybe during a big name free agent signing), we are left to guess about his involvement.
I can say that Kelly is in Indianapolis for the Combine. Some SB Nation folks are on hand for the week, and they spotted Kelly with Baalke and someone else hanging out Wednesday evening. So he's involved in the process to some degree.
Here are the Kelly specific excerpts from Baalke's Combine press conference and KNBR interview.
Combine press conference
What has working with head coach Chip Kelly been like so far? Is there anything about his personality that maybe surprised you as opposed to the perception out there about him?
"Well, I always say there's perception and there's reality. And the reality's what we deal with every day in the office and the perception's what everyone else speculates on. But, it's been awesome. He's been very easy to work with. We haven't spent a ton of time together because he's been putting the coaching staff together and I've been involved in draft meetings for the last 17 days. So, there hasn't been a lot of overlap, but we've had a lot of good discussions and look forward to continuing those."
Do you sense that he's approaching his second job as a head coach in the NFL a lot different than his first time being a head coach?
"I don't know. I didn't work with him in Philly. So, I can't answer how he approached it in Philly. I've known coach since he was up at Oregon when I used to go up there and scout. I don't see him any different today than I saw him then."
How important is the GM-head coach relationship? Does it take a while to develop over time in your mind?
"It's like a marriage, you know? Yeah, it takes a while. It's like any relationship. It doesn't happen over night. But, all indications are, like I said, I've known coach since he was at Oregon and see him no different than the conversations that I used to have with him when we went in and were recruiting his players at Oregon."
When Chip was in Philadelphia, he had certain prototypes and measurables on a lot of different positions that his scouts then took when they went on the road to scout people. Has there been an impact on you as far as the kind of people you're looking for since you hired him?
"No, not really because if you look at what his prototypes are, he's looking for the same thing that we're looking for. Big players. Guys with size at their positions. That's been an easy, and that's part of what you're looking for when you go out and hire a head coach. Do you have a philosophy that marriages pretty well? And it was evident early on. And once again, knowing how he liked to build his teams up in Oregon, it was no different. He was looking for big players. That's what we've been doing since [former 49ers head coach] coach [Mike] Nolan was the head coach of the 49ers and that philosophy hasn't changed."
What about for the quarterback position? Same type of thing, same type of deal with Chip?
"Well, quarterbacks, they come in all different shapes and sizes. If you had [New Orleans Saints QB] Drew Brees, you'd feel pretty good, right? I mean, I don't know that you can pigeonhole any one position. There's exceptions at every position. We prefer big, but does that mean that we're not going to make an exception? No. We'll look at every player and give them a value and make a decision, whether it's through the draft or free agency, and try to get the best 53 we can."
To the perception versus reality attempt, is there anything that kind of stood out?
"Not really stood out. I mean, he's got an easy personality. For us to deal with internally, now whether that's with the media or not, that's for you guys and gals to decide. But, it's been an easy transition. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. There's always going to be things that you come across in these types of relationships where you've got to work through. But, as of right now, as we're trying to put this thing together with free agency and the draft, feel pretty good about how we're communicating and what exactly we're looking for."
On how he'd characterize Evan Mathis critiques of Kelly:
Noise. Quite honestly, just noise. People want to stand up, they want to be heard. There's perception and there's reality, and that's how I look at it. For everybody that's come out and said something negative about myself, or anybody else, whether it's coach or anybody else, there's someone that's stood up and said something positive. So, what do you want to believe? To me, it's about knowing yourself, and moving forward knowing what you need to do, maybe differently, maybe not differently. I've got all the respect and trust in the world in coach, and know that he's gonna do an awfully good job for us, as is this coaching staff, and we're going to work hard to put this thing back together.
On Kelly valuing character and the big names with character flags:
We're going to look at every player, and look into any red flags they may have. I think coach understands, as do I, that this is a risk and reward business, and there's gonna be, you're always looking for guys with integrity, guys of high character. But you also, there is some risk involved because some of these guys you don't know as well as you should know, and some guys you think are high character are going to end up not being of high character. And vice versa. There's gonna be some guys that have some flags coming out, that come into the National Football League, they mature, and you don't have any issues moving forward. Just to lump everybody that's had an off-the-field transgression into the same group is unfair to them, and unfair to the organization. So, we're gonna look at them like we always do, individually, and make the best assessment we can. And when we feel the risk outweighs the reward, I should say, the reward outweighs the risk, we'll make the decision to move forward. When we feel the opposite, we'll stay away.