SANTA CLARA – Curtis Modkins is an NFL offensive coordinator for the second time in his career. And for the second time, the head coach will handle the primary duties as the play-caller.
Modkins this week confirmed what was already assumed: Coach Chip Kelly will call the 49ers' offensive plays once the regular season begins.
“It’s open to all of us to say what we need to say or talk openly,” Modkins said. “I’m sure he’ll be receptive to that. But Chip will call the plays and he’s been great at it and, shoot, I’m looking forward to being a part of it, to be honest.”
In Modkins’ previous stint as offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills from 2010 to ‘12, head coach Chan Gailey called the shots. Modkins spent the past three seasons as Detroit Lions running backs coach and run-game coordinator.
The run game figures to be the aspect of the 49ers’ offense where Modkins will have his greatest influence.
Kelly has repeatedly stated his intention to field an effective run game. In his three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly’s offenses ranked first, ninth and 14th in yards rushing. In 2013, the Lions featured running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, a pair that combined for 1,600 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. Last year, running back Theo Riddick caught 80 passes.
“Chip’s very open-minded,” Modkins said. “He listens and my job is to learn what we do and have suggestions and bring things up. We want this to be the 49ers offense, not necessarily where he came from or where I come from. This is the 49ers offense and that means it’s not going to be exactly the same, but the structure of it is and that’s how we operate and it’s been great.”
Modkins said it was an easy process to incorporate his beliefs and principles into Kelly’s existing one-back, quick-tempo offense when they got together to begin piecing together the system.
“There’s some base philosophies that I’ve always kind of been around or that I’ve always wanted to be around,” Modkins said. “Being able to run the ball out of a one-back set, it’s been something that we’ve been pretty good at in the past where I’ve been and there’s some things that Chip has done in the past that we’re kind of meshing together.
“But it’s been really good on both sides of it, kind of meshing those thoughts, because the base of it is the same. The thought process of one, being able to run it and that being important and how you run it, kind of spreading people out to do that. It’s been easy.”
Left tackle Joe Staley said the dynamic this offseason is no different than what he has experienced in the past, though this is the first time in his 10 NFL seasons the 49ers will have a head coach who calls the offensive plays. Modkins still runs all of the offensive meetings, Staley said, and he calls most of the plays during practices.
Kelly will likely be in constant communication to seek input from his position coaches, including long-time offensive line coach Pat Flaherty. Modkins said he expects to be stationed in the coaches’ booth on game days to provide Kelly with his perspective.
“I think I see a little better up top and I’ll be able to maybe communicate a little bit better with Chip from up in the box,” Modkins said.