The San Francisco 49ers had one of the most underwhelming seasons in the NFL this year. They went 5-11 under Jim Tomsula and finished 31st in total offense and last in scoring offense, averaging just 14.9 points per game.
Need perspective on just how bad that was? The Niners were one of only six teams to average fewer than 20 points per game and the only team to average fewer than 17.
But here comes Chip Kelly. Yes, after going 26-21 in Philadelphia, Kelly will be asked to rebuild a franchise that went 13-19 over the last two seasons, this after going 36-11 from 2011-13.
Can Kelly have success in San Francisco?
“I (believe he will),” TOPS NFL analyst London Fletcher said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I faced Chip Kelly’s offense when he was in Philadelphia. We actually were the first guinea pig or lab rat, so to speak, when we got baptized to that offense on Monday Night Football. First game of the season. They had Michael Vick running that thing, and I’ll tell you what: There’s a difference to to defend that offense when you have a quarterback that is a threat to keep that ball on that zone-read play.”
Vick ran nine times for 54 yards and a touchdown that night. The threat of Vick running opened up lanes for LeSean McCoy, who ran 31 times for 184 yards and a touchdown. The defense’s focus on the run game then opened up passing lanes for Vick, who finished 15-of-25 for 203 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-27 Eagles win.
While the injury-prone Vick was limited to just seven games that year, Kaepernick has been a tad more durable throughout his career, and – at 6-4, 230 pounds – could run Kelly’s offense in ways that Vick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford and others could not.
“With Sam Bradford, there was never a threat (to run the ball),” Fletcher said. “You knew he wasn’t going to keep the football, so you could always just crash down as a defensive end and chase the running back down the line of scrimmage. But when you have the dimension of Colin Kaepernick and his ability to keep the ball and run with it, it’s tough for defenses to defend. Now you get the play-action pass and you’re throwing it to wide-open windows. Kaepernick, he can hopefully hit a wide-open guy because he’s going to have a lot of opportunities to throw footballs to receivers that are wide open.”