Chip Kelly seemed unimpressed by what he saw in the San Francisco 49ers’ first practice game, and for good reason.
He’s been watching it in practice every day.
There are, you see, no revelations from Sunday’s Something-To-Less-Than-Half-That loss to Houston that Kelly didn’t already know were coming. Oh, a player here might have popped up for him where before he was just part of the gray blur of training camp, but Kelly already knew what he had awhile ago, which makes his most important job – to clean out as much of the room as possible without getting any of the ancillary blame splashed on him – all the easier.
He has the advantage of not having a quarterback controversy except in the febrile minds of those of us who think there ought to be one. Blaine Gabbert is his guy until injured or replaced by someone he prefers – in other words, Colin Kaepernick in the first case, someone currently on another team in the second.
He also has a central offensive piece upon which to build in Carlos Hyde, and a defensive core in the name of NaVorro Bowman. But it leaves a lot of other parts that are either on the come, as they say in gambling circles, or on the go, as they say in moving van circles.
In other words, the 49ers displayed Sunday what you suspected about them Saturday – that they are a wildly incomplete team whose real parts are probably still in transit from other professional and collegiate teams scattered across the country.
And it would have been so even if the 49ers had won. That is, if hiring Kelly is worth the bother, and there's no current way of assessing that.
He is a talent assessor as well as a coach, and he has been gathering information all offseason on how the larder is stocked. If he is worth his salt, he has already made most of the judgments he needs to make, with the only wild cards being injuries or any late night calls from the police.
Now we will amuse ourselves, as we must, with how many games this team will win – five, as the Las Vegas mavens predict; three, as the mean-spirited among us assert; or somewhere in the middle, or as we like to call it, four. Zero, one or two is highly unlikely given the competition, six is an outlier, and eight is Christmas.
So really, the drama that keeps people stuck in for this otherwise lean year is to wonder how much longer Kaepernick will be part of the grand plan, and in a related matter, how much longer general manager Trent Baalke will be part of the grander plan. Because if there is one thing we know (and usually, it stops at one), it is that Jed York is not going to sit still when the planes that serve as his annual HR review are flying overhead.
So what is to be gleaned from Sunday? Well, the SS 49er has left the dock and is headed on a voyage of indeterminate length with Captain C.E. Kelly on the bridge. There will for good or ill be games played and debates engaged, but what we do know is that what we saw, Kelly already knew was coming. The real issue is how long it takes for him to do something about it, and whether he will be granted all the time that job entails. He is part of a group of relatively smart but impatient men having to take on a job that requires lots of smarts and lots of patience.
That’s the long-term ramification of Sunday – the size of the job before them all. If Mark Davis wasn’t frantically trying to move the improving and appealing Raiders out of Oakland, this might be more of an existential crisis for Team York, but as it is, it’s just more of the same -- if that’s your idea of a good time, and I presume it isn’t. Either way, the record will tell us where the team is, and the planes will tell us how the fans feel. All in good time, friends. In the interim, you should try patience. Lord knows the 49ers are going to try yours.