“You’re going to see players in roles that maximize their talent,” offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said, after being asked about what the 49ers’ offense will look like when operating at its best. “You want to see balance, because we don’t want one player to think he has to do it all by himself.”
Chryst didn’t say it, but that last sentence pretty much sums up San Francisco’s offensive approach in 2014. That was supposed to be the year when Kaepernick made a huge leap in his development and evolved into a quarterback capable of directing a fast-paced, wide-open passing attack, instead of being an otherworldly talent mystifying defenses with his strong arm and explosive speed. The only problem with that idea? Kaepernick never became comfortable in that system, and most of his receivers never found a rhythm with him.
The immediate question with Kelly taking over is the future of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers appeared destined to part with the struggling signal-caller after this season, but perhaps Kelly could convince the organization he can rebuild the athletic quarterback and allow him to thrive in a fast-paced offense. In fact, Kelly reportedly considered trading for Kaepernick while with the Eagles.
The team also liked what it saw from Blaine Gabbert in his eight starts this season — throwing for 2,031 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. During his time in Philadelphia, Kelly worked with the likes of Nick Foles, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. Gabbert and/or Kaepernick wouldn’t exactly be a downgrade on that group.
Vernon Davis was traded. Anthony Davis, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Chris Borland retired. Frank Gore left in free agency. Antoine Bethea, Colin Kaepernick, Reggie Bush, Alex Boone, Carlos Hyde and cheap jerseys and Garrett Celek all ended up on injured reserve. Tomsula is lucky a guy like linebacker NaVorro Bowman came back and played as well as he did. Bowman suffered a horrific injury not too long ago but was a field general during a bleak time in 49ers history. He will always resemble the remaining talent on a roster once embarrassingly rich with prospects. To say that San Francisco was snakebitten would be taking it easy. This was a franchise that seemingly endured some sort of cosmic punishment that goes far beyond a few untimely injuries. This does not look like a quick rebuild at some positions, while others — the safety spot — look promising.
Tomsula, a longtime defensive line coach, wasn’t a conventional choice for the head coaching job after Harbaugh left last season. But he’s essentially getting fired for the failures of 49ers management over the last few years. Owner Jed York did not mention the fate of general manager Trent Baalke in his statement.
“Jimmy has been a valuable member of the 49ers organization for the last nine years,” said York. “We all know he is a man of high character, and his contributions on the field and in our community have always been greatly appreciated. This entire organization is proud and grateful to have worked so closely alongside Jimmy. We all wish him and his family great success in the future.”
“I don’t think it’s a huge blow to this team,” Tomsula said. “We’ve got some guys that are doing some really good things right now that we’re really excited about going into training camp.”
This was always going to be an offseason of transition, even before the four retirements. It’s a team that had a clear identity under Harbaugh with big bodies up front pushing other teams. Among the le ague’s elite teams for three straight seasons with a young franchise quarterback, the 49ers surely figured they would have a long run among the NFL’s power squads. They looked like a solid candidate to contend to play in Super Bowl 50 in their home Levi’s Stadium.
“I hope you too have the courage to live your life how you planned it when day dreaming to yourself growing up. Your Life is Your dream and you have the power to control that dream. I’m simply doing what’s best for my body as well as my mental health at this time in my life.”
Although the wording suggests a sabbatical, a statement released by the 49ers reads that Davis has “informed the team he plans to retire” from the NFL. Davis missed four games last season following a concussion.