New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly describes himself as 'a football guy'
Chip Kelly’s coaching staff has 15 assistants from eight different teams, including four from the previous 49ers regime.
The 49ers announced the bulk of Kelly’s staff Wednesday after perhaps the most critical component, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, signed his deal. O’Neil was the Browns’ defensive coordinator the last two years and, in contrast with Jim Tomsula’s 49ers staff, he is one of the few assistants who has been an NFL coordinator.
Tomsula’s staff featured Geep Chryst, Tim Lewis, Eric Mangini, Thomas McGaughey, Clancy Pendergast, Tony Sparano and Jason Tarver, all previous coordinators. And Sparano and Mangini had been head coaches.
On Kelly’s staff, only O’Neil, offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins and Tarver, who will continue to coach outside linebackers, have experience as a coordinator. Only Kelly has been a head coach, the past three seasons with the Eagles.
Kelly retained Tarver, running backs coach Tom Rathman, assistant offensive line coach Eric Wolford and offensive quality control coach Mick Lombardi from Tomsula’s staff. The team could add other lower-level assistants like a defensive quality coach or an assistant secondary coach.
Kelly worked with defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, receivers coach Bob Bicknell and assistant special teams coach Michael Clay in Philadelphia. Day played quarterback for Kelly at the University of New Hampshire when Kelly was the offensive coordinator. Clay, who is from San Jose, was a linebacker under Kelly at Oregon.
O’Neil, 37, is known for his energy and has favored aggressive defenses. He ran a 3-4 defense in Cleveland but, like most NFL defenses now, his system is versatile and there are elements of a 4-3 scheme.
Modkins, 45, was Buffalo’s offensive coordinator for three seasons. But his head coach there, Chan Gailey, called the plays, which Kelly will do this season with the 49ers. Modkins has worked with running backs the last three seasons and brings a strong power-running background to the mix.
Special teams coordinator Derius Swinton, 30, never has been a coordinator. He was the Bears’ assistant special teams coach last year and had the same role with the Broncos from 2013-14.
Kelly said he was looking for a range of experiences and viewpoints on his staff.
“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,” he said last week. “... 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.”
How new 49ers coach Chip Kelly’s staff is lining up (with age and previous team):
- Coordinator: Curtis Modkins, 45 (Lions)
- Quarterbacks: Ryan Day, 36 (Eagles)
- Offensive line: Pat Flaherty, 59 (Giants); assistant Eric Wolford, 44 (49ers)
- Receivers: Bob Bicknell, 46 (Eagles)
- Running backs: Tom Rathman, 53 (49ers)
- Tight ends: Jeff Nixon, 41 (Dolphins)
- Quality control: Mick Lombardi, 27 (49ers)
- Coordinator: Jim O’Neil, 37 (Browns)
- Defensive line: Jerry Azzinaro, 57 (Eagles)
- Inside linebackers: Hardy Nickerson, 50 (Buccaneers)
- Outside linebackers: Jason Tarver, 41 (49ers)
- Secondary: Jeff Hafley, 36 (Browns)
- Coordinator: Derius Swinton, 30 (Bears)
- Assistant: Michael Clay, 25 (Eagles)