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Chip Kelly at Day 1 of 49ers minicamp - Reading between the lines

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Mandatory practices opened, with the first of 3 consecutive Chip Kelly press conferences. Here's what he said and what (I think) he meant.

Another in our series of annotated Chip interviews. Here's the full transcript and the original audio. Kelly has two more media sessions planned, and we'll be back to annotate each of them.

Q: [Re: veteran OL getting first team reps] Is that just because they’ve been in the league so long they are able to kind of pick things up quicker than some of the younger guys and allows you to practice faster?

“I don’t think it’s that. I think they’ve been here longer, so they’ve had a big jump on the group that we drafted that last week of April. We started April 4th, so we were three, four weeks into it before the young guys joined us. ... So, you’re not going to call something very sophisticated with the third group that you would with the first group."

Interesting point. In the past, the sense has been that rookies (no matter how highly drafted) need to work their way up the depth chart and earn their place on the first team, to show that no one is guaranteed anything. And that may also be true.

But Chip is making a simpler point -- every player gets reps to be analyzed later on tape, and it makes no sense to tape someone when they've just arrived and haven't had a chance to learn the scheme yet. It wouldn't be a fair comparison.

Six months ago, RB Carlos Hyde was coming off foot surgery. He’s been pretty much present out here, doing everything as a running back. How encouraging has that been to see through the whole offseason program?

“Again, I’ve only seen one Carlos Hyde. The Carlos Hyde I know has been healthy and full-go. So, I’m excited about what he can do.”

Chip has a skepticism about different kinds of knowledge. He's not big on analytics because, by definition, they show you only part of the data. Tape is better but ideally he wants to see things with his own eyes where he can take it all in. Last year as GM he went to a record number of pro days to see players in person, talk with them, and see them in familiar surroundings.

Similarly, he's less interested in what happened in the past because the situation is always different.

Does [Hyde] seem like an ideal fit for your style and scheme?

“I think our style and scheme adapts to whoever it is, but I think he certainly has the skillset to be an outstanding running back at this level, because he can do everything.

Kelly takes pride in adapting his scheme to the players he has to work with, but there's a contradiction in his system. He's also a big believer in relentless practice, in muscle memory that builds a trained instinct. This gives you a performance advantage, especially with an unusual system that other teams are not as experience playing against, but it also limits your ability to adapt mid-season -- unless you have multiple players with similar measurables and skillsets who can replace each other.

Last year, when the offensive line fell apart, RB DeMarco Murray couldn't get going and Kelly wasn't able to scheme around the problems. My take is that it was a combination of a thin roster (in part due to Chip getting rid of players), being overwhelmed by GM and coaching duties, and just some burnout from his battles with former/future GM Howie Roseman and the press. It will be interesting to see whether Chip can find ways to build in more flexibility, or whether the change of scenery and more limited job duties in his new job simply reinvigorate him.

What can you get out of [the joint practices Chip has scheduled with the Broncos and Texans], having multiple practices with multiple teams?

“I just think it’s a chance to see other guys, a chance to see different schemes. I’ve always been a big fan of it. My time in Philly, we did it with New England for two years and with Bill’s [Belichick] group it was great because we were on the same page. And then we had a real good session last year when we did it with the Ravens with John Harbaugh. So, as long as the coaches kind of agree to the format in terms of what’s going on, I think you can get a lot of positives out of it and I know [Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien] Billy and [Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak] Kubes really well.

Chip will throw some surprises in his game plans, but the core is fundamentals, things like the inside zone run which are not a surprise to anyone. It's all to his advantage to test his players against another squad to see how they do.

He also loves to hang out and compare notes with other coaches. Bill O'Brien has known Chip since the early 1990s, when Kelly came down to Brown to hang out and play basketball. He was the guy who introduced Kelly to Belichick, back when Houston's coach was New England's offensive coordinator. They flew Chip in to explain his one-word play calls (which New England used so effectively, on occasion, back in 2011-2).

And finally, a lighter moment today...

"[Kap will] start to do more individual drills and start throwing to receivers and the tight ends and the running backs. So, I think it’s just a natural progression that he’s doing.”

Would that be with a helmet on?

“I would hope so. Keep the sun off his head.”

Note: there is no sun in Oregon. New Hampshire and Philly have snow, and the Bay Area has the world's best weather. I don't think Chip hates the change.