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Colin Kaepernick: Culture change could help 49ers
Under normal circumstances, the 49ers (1-13) would be far and away the worst team in the National Football League. Thankfully for coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke, the Browns decided to undergo a massive rebuild this year.
That doesn't mean the helpless feeling doesn't permeate the walls of the 49ers' locker room. This was a franchise contending for a Super Bowl just a few years ago.
"You know what's going on," linebacker Ahmad Brooks said after the 41-13 blowout loss to the Falcons on Sunday via the Mercury News. "Patrick Willis retiring. Justin Smith retiring. Some other big-name guys leaving the team. We've just got to rebuild. I guess we're in a rebuilding stage right now ... I'm not in a rebuilding stage in my career. This is my 11th year. Next year will be my 12th. I really have no time to be rebuilding. I want to win."
Added Colin Kaepernick, when asked how far they are from championship caliber: "That's always hard to tell. It can be pieces here and there that make a huge difference, and it can also be the culture of this team changing, which it needs to. We have to be able to create our opportunities and go out and create wins for our team."
After watching this team play 14 games this year, I think their problems have become evidently clear. The 49ers hired Kelly believing that his system could negate some of the glaring talent deficiencies on the roster. After all, he was .500 at the mid-season point with Philadelphia last year even after gutting the entire roster. Players can complain about simplicity, but it does allow them to play faster. Had Kelly incorporated some of his scheme alterations that we've seen in 2016 a year ago, he might have remained the head coach of the Eagles.
But the 49ers needed much more than an easy-to-learn offense. Kelly gets a bad reputation because of his perceived inability to motivate -- but San Francisco knew this before it hired him. Kelly isn't going to be able to change that part of his personality. The 49ers also knew they had a very unique blend of players in their locker room. Kaepernick and Brooks were part of a different era -- a group that had perhaps one of the best motivators on Earth in Jim Harbaugh. The group of players who make up San Francisco's young core probably would have done better with someone who could create a defined culture and rally against the fact that every other team in the division was much stronger.
Instead, they are left with a 13-game losing streak and a crash course with the No. 2 pick in the draft. San Francisco was un-watchable for a majority of Sunday's game against the Falcons and the slog is really starting to impact some of its better players. What will this team look like a year from now? Will Kelly be a part of it?