Left tackle Joe Staley, the longest-tenured 49er, learned his seventh offense in 10 seasons after Chip Kelly was hired in January. Will he have to absorb an eighth?
“We know there’s going to be some kind of changes,” Staley said. “It is how it is.”
Still, Staley gave Kelly a vote of confidence Tuesday, citing the value of continuity and what may be the coach’s greatest achievement: keeping the team unified despite one of the lousiest seasons in franchise history.
“I’d love to have Chip back,” Staley said. “Chip’s a great football coach. Look at the team – he’s done a great job of keeping us together. We’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain as players as far as executing better.”
Other players have pointed to the same strengths.
“I like that – and it starts with the head man, Chip – at the beginning of the week when we walk in on Tuesday, he’s very clear what the game plan’s going to be,” tight end Vance McDonald said earlier this year. “He’s very clear about coaching points that we need to take from the game on Sunday.”
Added McDonald: “I get asked after games, ‘How’s the locker room?’ Compared to last year, there’s no division. We’re rockin’ and rollin’ and we’re having fun, and that’s what the game is all about anyway.”
McDonald likely was referring to a 2015 spat between Staley and tight end Vernon Davis that was resolved when Davis was traded to Denver in November of that year.
A content locker room, however, also has been a criticism of Kelly: Like their coach, the players are too dispassionate and haven’t showed enough fire and anger during such an embarrassing season, some say.
“I think they control their effort and their attitudes,” Kelly said last week. “Those are things you can control and they worry about the things that they can control and they don’t dwell on the negative. But I don’t take (their attitude) as that they don’t take it very seriously in terms of what they’re doing. I think they’re very serious in their preparation and how they do it.”
Kelly said he has had no discussions with CEO Jed York or the team’s upper management about his future. He said he imagined those conversations will occur next week.
“I’m concerned with Seattle,” he said of Sunday’s opponent. “That’s not a discussion, shouldn’t be discussed during the season. So we’ll discuss it after the season.”
The 49ers fired Jim Tomsula after a 5-11 season in 2015. The best Kelly can finish is 3-13, and he would have to beat the playoff-bound Seahawks – a team San Francisco hasn’t defeated in the past six meetings – to do so.
There have been reports that general manager Trent Baalke will be dismissed, and his replacement likely would want to pick his own coach.
The 49ers are at risk of finishing 2-14 for the first time since 2004. That’s also the last time the 49ers fired their coach and general manager – Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue – in the same offseason.
As a veteran, Staley acknowledged team officials sometimes seek his advice and he will probably be asked to sit down with them after the season.
“But like I said, these are all decisions that are made way higher up than me,” he said. “I’ve got to focus on doing what my job is.”