Chip Kelly knew exactly what he was getting into when he took the San Francisco 49ers’ head coaching job.
He knew he must orchestrate the rebuild of a 5-11 team. He knew he needed to eventually decide on a starting quarterback. And he knew he needed to do it all while participating in arguably the most competitive division in the NFL.
“I think the NFC West is stacked. But that excites you,” Kelly said, via ESPN. “If you’re a competitor, you get excited about competing in that … it’s a league that’s based on parity. If you’re really good, you pick last. If you’re not really good, you pick first. We all have the same amount of money. It’s how you allocate it. Everybody has the same amount of players. It’s just trying to put the right formula together to be successful.”
Kelly has his work cut out for him in the NFC West.
The Seattle Seahawks have been to the postseason five of the last six seasons under Pete Carroll, including two NFC championships and one Super Bowl win. The Arizona Cardinals are one win away from Super Bowl 50, while Bruce Arians has led the current NFC West champions to 34 regular season wins over the last three seasons. Even the newly minted Los Angeles Rams have won seven games in three out of the last four seasons under Jeff Fisher.
The 49ers used to be the kingpin in the NFC West. From 2011-13, Jim Harbaugh led San Francisco to 36 regular season wins and three straight NFC Championship Games. In the final year of Harbaugh and the one and only season under Jim Tomsula, the team fell sharply from the league’s elite and won just 13 combined games.
Now, it’s on Kelly to get the 49ers back to the top of one of the NFL’s best divisions.
San Francisco won just one divisional game last season, which came on a blocked field goal in Week 17 against the Rams. According to ESPN, the 49ers were outscored by almost 100 points inside the division in 2015, including a 40-point loss to Arizona in September.
Can Kelly turn the 49ers around? Rebuilding a former conference giant won’t be easy within the rough and tough NFC West. At least Kelly understands the challenge ahead of him.