When the San Francisco 49ers had their press conference to introduce Chip Kelly to the media, the new coach emphasized how much he just wanted to coach and not be involved in the roster. Going from the Philadelphia Eagles, an organization where he had considerable personnel power, to the 49ers where Trent Baalke will call the shots, was described as a non-issue by all parties involved.
Where have we seen this before?
The same thing happened to Bill Walsh--on the same team. I caught a glimpse of the Bill Walsh episode of "A Football Life" and there's a scene talking about the 1987 NFC championship game and the decision to bench Joe Montana for Steve Young. Whether the decision was what sparked it, or it was a culmination of things leading up to it, following the game, Bill Walsh avoided termination and instead was stripped of his Team President title.
What's interesting is what you see at 2:09 in that newspaper clipping. Eddie DeBartolo says that Walsh was relieved to just be coaching. DeBartolo wasn't the only one who said it, the man himself told the media how happy he was to not have the burden of being president. This is from a 1988 article by Jeff Schulz in the Chicago Tribune:
"The president thing was thrust on me four or five years ago," he [Bill Walsh] said. "At first things went very smoothly. But each year it has gotten more complicated. I`ve stretched myself too thin. My major role in the organization should be to coach.
"I was everything from president to offensive coordinator. I can`t give up being offensive coordinator. That`s been the basis of our success. Dealing with the business end of the operation, that`s been too much. I had a choice- coaching or management. To be honest, coaching is what I do."
The interesting thing is, if you keep watching the video above, this very decision strained the relationship between DeBartolo and Walsh and probably had a hand in his eventual resignation from the organization. This is all speculation as we can't see what happens behind closed doors, but you can draw a comparison to Kelly's current status.
They are still very different scenarios, however. Kelly is on a new team, and he's there because he was fired from the old one, not demoted. On the other hand, he wanted back into the NFL and there weren't any other teams calling. Did he accept this role with less power out of desperation?
So what does all this mean? Actions speak louder than words. We'll see just how comfortable Kelly is with less weight on his shoulders this coming season. He very well could be sincere in what he says and has no desire to have any personnel control with the roster. Or maybe he's relieved to not deal with it just at this second. There's been a few mentions on how Kelly got involved in roster matters in the first place and there are arguments he never sought that power in Philly to begin with. The point is, when things like this are announced, people always want to save face. Walsh didn't want to stir up a hornet nest by badmouthing his employers (especially when the demotion came after DeBartolo demanded a press release to announce Walsh's firing) and I doubt Chip Kelly wants to say the organization is stupid for not giving him control five minutes into his first press conference.
Nowadays it's pretty hard to know what anyone in the league is really thinking given how the media works, and I don't blame anyone on that podium. Either way, seeing how all this works out, whether with Tom Gamble or not, it's going to be interesting. What do you think? Do you think Kelly really wanted to just coach? Or do you think this is a smoke screen and he's gunning for more power behind the scene as we speak?