SANTA CLARA -- Add former Eagles coach Chip Kelly to the list of coaching candidates the 49ers are considering.
Kelly met with team officials on Thursday in New York, according to a league source. Kelly, 52, was fired 15 games into Philadelphia’s 7-9 season but put together back-to-back 10-6 campaigns before that. Prior to joining the NFL, Kelly was successful at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Oregon and his teams always have been known for high-powered, fast-paced offense, something the 49ers are intent on improving after finishing 31st in the league in 2015.
Kelly’s Eagles offenses finished ranked in the Top 5 in 2013 and 2014 before slipping to 12th this past season. His defenses, however, finished 29th, 28th and 30th over the past three years with some players complaining that the pace of Kelly’s offense meant they were on the field too much. The Eagles had the lowest time of possession in the NFL in 2015.
“I feel bad for (defensive coordinator) Billy (Davis) because our numbers are so skewed," pass rusher Connor Barwin told reporters in Philadelphia this week. "We played three more games than Seattle. I'm not trying to make excuses, but we weren't as bad as some of the numbers look. That's because we play three more games than other teams. That makes a difference."
Other players complained that Kelly worked them too hard and was so accustomed to college players he didn’t know how to deal with professional athletes. That also was a complaint some players had of Jim Harbaugh after he and the 49ers parted ways following the 2014 season.
Reports earlier this week said Kelly reached out to the 49ers and their degree of interest in him is unknown. Kelly is represented by the same agent who represented Harbaugh, and at one point at least, general manager Trent Baalke. Tom Gamble, the 49ers’ senior personnel executive, was part of the Eagles’ front office in 2013-14 and the two have a good relationship. Gamble is believed to have encouraged the interview.
Kelly won a power struggle in the Eagles’ front office last year, one that landed him the additional title of head of football operations. But he was criticized for subsequent personnel moves, such as trading All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills and dealing quarterback Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. Bradford finished the season ranked 26th in passer rating, one spot ahead of Blaine Gabbert.
Kelly, meanwhile, is thought to be fond of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was benched after eight games in 2015 and who is due to earn a base salary of nearly $12 million in the upcoming season. Kaepernick’s status for next season is in limbo although team officials have said repeatedly that speculation that he will be cut or traded is premature.
The 49ers also interviewed Buffalo running backs coach Anthony Lynn on Thursday and are scheduled to meet with Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson on Sunday.