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Chip Kelly on 95.7 The Game: Reading Between the Lines

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The new coach had his first interview on the powerhouse sports station. What did we learn?

New Niners coach Chip Kelly had another long radio interview Thursday, this time on 95.7 The Game. Here's the transcript and the full recording. As before with previous interviews, here is some perspective on what he said.


"I think I walked into a good situation. It’s obviously an outstanding franchise....And then a really young roster that I think is really talented. So I was excited when this opportunity came up."

Of course he said nice things. What did you expect? "Hey, the Niners are in a tailspin but I just got fired so I was happy to get a job anywhere. " I don't think so. Besides, Kelly is a positive guy. As a rule, he doesn't speak ill of anyone in public if he can help it.

But the team's youth is a real thing. The Eagles had one of the oldest rosters in the NFL when Chip arrived, while the Niners are much younger. NaVorro Bowman turned 28 about a week ago and, per Matt Barrows, only 3 defenders on the team are older than him. On cut-down day last fall, the Eagles were the fifth-oldest team in the league, and the Niners were the eigth-youngest.

Partly that's because the team has so many roster holes and unproven young players. But if Kelly and his staff pull this squad together, they have a young core that can stay good for several years. Youth will make the demands of his tempo approach easier to handle, too.

Did he like what he saw in Kap while he was with Eagles?

Ah, nah, I’m not a guy that looks at other people and thinks, because you never know who you’re gonna have. I don’t speculate, and what if this happens or that happens. ... So I never thought "I’d like to have him on my team some day" because in this league you never, trades, you don’t really speculate, you deal with the reality of it. But I was always very impressed with him in terms of his skill set as a quarterback.

He's not saying he didn't like what he saw in Kap, just that he didn't daydream about how great it would be to have him as a quarterback, like a fifth grade girl writing "Mr. and Mrs. Chip Kaepernick" over and over on his PeeChee folder. Philosophically, Chip is very much against speculation and what-ifs. He likes facts on the ground and focusing on what he's doing right now.

On being a disruptor with his offensive philosophy, and if he likes that (mentions Warriors):

"I don’t look at it that way. I just look at it as, what will give us an opportunity to win."

One impressive thing about Chip in interviews is that he doesn't get boxed in by assumptions hidden in the premise of the question. Intead, he'll reframe it as he does here, often by starting with that exact phrase -- " I/we don't look at it that way."

On Bruce Miller playing tight end instead of fullback in OTAs

"Yea, he has. He’s playing both tight end and move tight end for us. Gotten him, he’s playing a little bit of wide receiver for us. And he’s really adapted very well to it. And that’s why I think, when you’re looking to try and deploy your personnel and put them in positions where they can make plays, to have someone with the versatility of Bruce, that’s a positive. And it speaks to his abilities. He’s not just a fullback, we’re talking about a guy who played defensive end in college. And when he was drafted moved over to the offensive side of the ball...."

This highlights a lot of the things Chip likes in a player: versatility, size and athleticism, intelligence, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team. With injuries and the intense game-planning in the NFL, you need to adapt quickly and often. The one thing you know for sure is that things you can't predict will happen.

So Chip -- who starred as a quarterback in high school and switched to safety in college -- emphasizes players who can shift with circumstances, and all of these traits help.

Miller may end up getting most of his snaps on special teams -- that's what happened to James Casey, a fullback-turned-tight end in Philadelphia. That's not a bad thing in Chip's system either. Kelly heavily emphasizes Teams and it pays off.

If you remember the Eagles-Niners game in 2014, the Eagles scored 21 points in the first half on special teams plays -- a blocked punt recovery and a Sproles punt return -- and a pick six. They almost beat San Francisco without scoring a single offensive point.

On why 49ers weren’t good last year:

I know this. If you’re not in a place on a daily basis, you can speculate all you want, but you don’t know. So, I don’t know much that went on here. Our job when we got here in January was put together a staff, and then kind of evaluate the talent that was currently on the roster, and then go to work putting in our system. So, they didn’t spend a whole lot of time wondering what this team’s record was last year and why that was their record. It’s really kind of a forward-thinking operation where, what are we gonna do now to make the 2016 team the best version of itself.

Again, he's a positive guy. He's also not stupid enough to start attacking a franchise he's working for now. But he's not evading the answer when he says he focuses on the now and moving forward.

A big part of his approach is not accepting conventional wisdom. In a way it doesn't matter what Tomsula or Geep Chryst did with these players, because Chip's approach is different. He's going to look at the raw skills, size and attitudes of his players and how he can make the most of their abilities. Looking back is a waste of time.

Talking about being sick of certain questions:

I’m not sick of anything. I’m very happy, and very fortunate in my chosen career, coaching football. I’ve been very fortunate to work at a lot of great places, so I think people look at it, and go oh this was tough, that was tough. I never thought of it like that. I thought that, I had the opportunity to coach in the NFL, and work with some great people in Philadelphia, coaches and players. I enjoyed my time in Philadelphia.

I suspect he may have enjoyed year three in Philadelphia a bit less, but whatever. No profit in talking about that. Chip will pounce on reporters who ask questions he considers trite or stupid, but I don't think it's because he's sick of the questions.

(Unless it's a question about Time of Possession, that one he's clearly sick of because he has decisively refuted it literally about 100 times and reporters keep asking.)

Chip's approach in press conference is actually pretty chummy. It's just that he likes to give his buddies a lot of crap, too. One of his oldest friends from New Hampshire called him "king of the ball busters." It's actually a measure of respect. If he doesn't like you, his answer will be a terse "no" or "yes."

On the "secret Chip Kelly shake we heard so much about", joke about how someone could start a business with it:

"Well, I think he’d lose money. That would be a bad investment on their part. The one thing I get a kick out of, is I would venture to guess that every professional sports team provides shakes for their players when they’ve done their workouts. ...But some people decided to write about it a couple years ago, like it was a phenomenon, but, to eat right, to get a lot of sleep, and to put good things in your body so you can be a productive athlete, I’m not taking any credit for coming up with that idea."

I don't know about Chip, but I am sure sick of smoothie jokes. Protein shakes are routine for anyone working out and building muscle. Get over it. It was hacky and played out three years ago. Find a new gag, please.

His visors and the S-8 playcard he holds on the sideline are good places to start. His weight's kind of a cheap shot but go there if you must. Just please, for the love of God stop with the lame smoothie jokes.