Chip Kelly said he’s looking for an assortment of ideas and backgrounds on offense, and he’s getting just that in his new offensive coordinator, Curtis Modkins.
Kelly and the 49ers on Friday decided on Modkins, 45, to help him run his offense. Modkins has been the running backs coach in Buffalo and most recently Detroit. In both places he favored a running backs-by-committee approach – Marshawn Lynch was one of his rushers with the Bills – and was well-versed in power running. Kelly, who will call the plays for San Francisco, favored zone-blocking schemes with the Eagles.
“I’m really looking for diversity, someone that comes from another system so that we can continue to add and make what we do better,” Kelly said Wednesday. “... I really want to bring some people in that have some different viewpoints, have some different ideas and have done it differently. Then we, collectively, as a group, come together and (do) what’s the best based on the personnel we have for us to be successful offensively.”
The 49ers have not yet announced any hires to Kelly’s staff beyond running backs coach Tom Rathman. But various reports indicated he was zeroing in on key positions:
▪ Fox Sports reported that Kelly had fired defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, whose unit finished 29th in yards allowed on defense in 2015. The team’s first choice for that position, Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, opted to remain in Houston. Kelly also is looking at in-house candidate Jason Tarver, who coached outside linebackers for the 49ers last year, as well as Ravens linebackers coach Don Martindale. Both have been defensive coordinators in the past.
▪ Special-teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr., also is out. The 49ers are expected to replace him with Derius Swinton, who served as the Chicago Bears’ assistant special-teams coach last year. Before that, Swinton spent two seasons as the Denver Broncos’ special-teams assistant. This will be Swinton’s first season in a coordinator role.
▪ According to Fox Sports, ex-Giants offensive-line coach Pat Flaherty will have the same role with the 49ers. Flaherty spent the past 12 seasons coaching the Giants’ offensive line.
Modkins joined the Lions in 2013 and was given the title of run-game coordinator. He was retained the following year when Jim Caldwell took over for Jim Schwartz as head coach but his role was reduced to running backs coach.
Still, when Detroit’s running attack began sluggishly this season, Modkins was promoted to manage that area, and the Lions had better results. Detroit had not rushed for 100 yards in a game in the first half of the season but had five in a row after Modkins’ role expanded and Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator.
Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah averaged 3.6 yards per carry in the first half of the season and 4.7 yards in the second half.
The 49ers’ offense, meanwhile, ranked 31st in yards on offense this season and struggled for consistency after top rusher Carlos Hyde broke his foot in Week 5.
The team used a number of runners from that point, including rookie Mike Davis, Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris. All of them likely will get a chance to vie for roles during the coming offseason.