San Francisco 49ers: Handling Of Players Under Kelly Was Criminal

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20: DeForest Buckner
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20: DeForest Buckner /

The San Francisco 49ers have opted for total regime change in the wake of a couple of disastrous seasons – leading a current coach to take a swipe at a former coach.

To say the San Francisco 49ers have had a couple of disastrous seasons would be quite the understatement. The fall from grace was as quick as it was stunning and after former HC Jim Harbaugh was unceremoniously dumped, the organization went through Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly in consecutive seasons.

But in new HC Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch, the 49ers have a new regime in place that looks to bring stability back to the organization – and improve the product on the field. Which, given the fact that San Francisco has but seven wins over the last two seasons, there really is nowhere to go but up.

The Shanahan/Lynch regime has completely shaken up and turned over the roster, very clearly – and very quickly – putting their own stamp on the franchise. There is no longer any doubt about who’s in charge or what direction they’re trying to go in – the 49ers no longer seem like a rudderless ship heading for the rocks.

Things are turning around and the vibes are good. But that didn’t stop new DC Robert Saleh from taking a shot at the previous regime.

Saleh fired a shot across the bow of former 49ers HC Chip Kelly. In specific, he was referencing how Kelly deployed – and wore out – his defensive personnel.

"“When you look at a guy like (DeForest) Buckner last year having played almost 1,000 snaps – in my mind, that’s criminal.”"

Buckner totalled 1,006 defensive snaps – behind only the now-departed Antoine Bethea (1,127) and Tramaine Brock (1,102).

Buckner played – by far – the most snaps among San Francisco’s defensive lineman. Not even Arik Armstead was on pace to come close to that, racking up only just over 330 snaps in the eight games he appeared in last season.

His high snap count resulted in far less efficiency and impact than the team had hoped. And Buckner, for his part, admitted that the high snap count took a toll on him as the season wore on.

"“There were times last year when I was dead-tired, but they wouldn’t take me out. I feel like I’m hurting the team more by staying out there and not live up to my full potential when I’m out there.”"

The wearing down of Buckner can and should be laid squarely at Kelly’s feet. But let’s face it, Kelly is a coach who focused solely on the offense – often to the extreme detriment of the defense. He did it in Philadelphia and he did it in his lone season in San Francisco.

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Saleh though, is promising a different approach to the rotation of defensive linemen. He believes that constant rotation and fresh legs will help the defense over the long run – something it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand.

"“Ideally, all of them are working about 500, 600 snaps and trying to utilize everything they’ve got every snap that they’re on the football field.”"

With Armstead back, rookie first round pick Solomon Thomas, and the additions of Elvis Dumervil and Earl Mitchell, the 49ers are going to field a solid mix of youth and experience in their rotation on the defensive line.

A rotation that could – if everybody plays up to potential and excels in the new 4-3 scheme – prove to be incredibly potent.

It might not be criminal, but Kelly’s handling of Buckner and the defensive rotations was certainly negligent. Kelly allowed the defense to get worn down and burned out. And allowed opposing offenses to run roughshod all over them all season long.

Which, of course, helps explain why the 49ers allowed the most points in the league in 2016, giving up 30 points per game.

If Saleh can establish a solid rotation, keep his guys fresh and rested, and utilize the considerable skill they possess, this San Francisco defense can certainly be vastly improved over last season’s version.

They certainly couldn’t be any worse than the “dead tired” unit Chip Kelly kept trotting out there play after play, game after game.