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49ers finalize coaching staff

Exactly one week after his introductory press conference, the San Francisco 49ers announced that their new head coach, Chip Kelly, has made 15 additions to what will be his first coaching staff as he attempts to turn around his struggling franchise.

With a massive overhaul that saw only four assistants from Jim Tomsula’s staff avoid the chopping block, Kelly’s new-look staff will look to breathe new life into a 49ers team that ranked 31st in offense, and 29th in defense across their 5-11 2015 season.

The most important additions to Kelly’s staff come at the coordinator position, after the team decided to move on from former coordinators OC Geep Chryst and DC Eric Mangini after just one season.

Perhaps the most intriguing hire is that of new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, who recently held the same position for the Cleveland Browns the previous two seasons. O’Neil is a bit of a wildcard in terms of what to expect, as his two years in Cleveland yielded largely mixed results.

During his first year as the defensive coordinator for the Browns, O’Neil’s unit excelled, earning an admirable ninth overall ranking in points (21.1) allowed per game in 2014.However, O’Neil’s defense experienced a significant drop off last season, falling to 27th in points per game during the 2015 season.

It will be hard to gauge what we should expect from the 49ers new defensive coordinator, as his numbers have showed both a high floor, and low ceiling. Even in his noteworthy 2014 season, O’Neil had some head-scratching polarities in his unit’s statistics.

Despite ranking ninth in points allowed, the Browns’ defense scratched the floor in other categories, ranking dead last in rushing yards allowed per game, and ultimately earning the 23rd overall spot in total yardage.

O’Neil’s Browns certainly had their fair share of injuries last year that could have skewed his disappointing numbers. Of the three Pro Bowl players from Cleveland’s defense — safety Donte Whitner, corners Tashaun Gipson and Joe Haden — Whitner was the most healthy, missing just two games with injuries. Haden appeared in only five games, while Gipson appeared in 13.

Coupled with a rotating quarterback carousel that turned the ball back over to opposing offenses quickly, it may appear as if O’Neil deserves a little slack for the team’s shortcomings.

However, his own players also appeared to criticize the team’s defense as predictable, or easy to read, sounding eerily familiar to the claims made by some about the 49ers offense in 2015.

On the other side of the ball, newly hired offensive coordinator, Curtis Modkins, will take his second shot at manning the position for an NFL team. Modkins makes the leap to the coordinator position after serving as a running back coach and run game coordinator for the Detroit Lions.

The Lions came in dead last in rushing yards per game in 2015 with just 83.4, although much of that could be attributed to an atrocious offensive line.

However, Modkins’ position won’t be as important to the 49ers success as O’Neil’s. With Chip Kelly looking to implement his own, unique system, as well as call the 49ers offensive plays, Modkins will most likely focus on a role similar to that of his previous position with the Lions.

Modkins will likely be relied on to look for ways to get RB Carlos Hyde involved in Kelly’s offense. With shifty and nimble backs ,such as Eagles RB Darren Sproles and even former Oregon player LaMichael James, excelling under Kelly’s scheme, it will be interesting to see how the power-style Hyde fits in with this new offense.

After posting career numbers with Dallas in 2014, RB DeMarco Murray– whose power running is similar to that favored by Hyde- went on to score the second worse rushing marks of his career after joining Kelly and the Eagles, with just 702 yards on 193 attempts. 

The 49ers may already have two complimentary pieces to Kelly’s puzzle in late-season acquisitions Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris, who both looked strong coming out of the backfield for San Francisco in 2015.

Another interesting addition is that of new quarterbacks coach, Ryan Day. Day will follow Kelly over from the Eagles to work in the same capacity, as he attempts to sort out which 49ers quarterback will be best suited to run Kelly’s offense.

The move is significant in that it represents the first time that Geep Chryst — who worked with QB Colin Kaepernick as both a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator — will not be present in the struggling quarterback’s development.

Day, who knows Kelly’s system well having served on his staff in Philadelphia, can provide a fresh set of eyes as Kaepernick looks to make a push to return to his starting job. Day’s expertise at the position can prove instrumental to helping get the 49ers quarterback’s up to speed quickly in Kelly’s new system.

The following list is a complete rundown of Kelly’s staff, courtesy of the 49ers:


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