49ers hire Chip Kelly as new coach

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – The San Francisco 49ers hired Chip Kelly as their coach Thursday, finding a focused, football-first leader who CEO Jed York is counting on to turn the once-proud franchise back into a contender.

York announced the move on Twitter and so did the team on its Twitter account.

“After a thorough search, Trent & I are thrilled to announce Chip Kelly as the new #HeadCoach of the @49ers,” York wrote, referring to general manager Trent Baalke.

Kelly won’t be introduced in a news conference until next week based on schedules.

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The former Eagles coach will replace fired coach Jim Tomsula. Kelly emerged as the favorite on a short list of experienced candidates that included former Raiders, Broncos and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, ex-Giants coach Tom Coughlin and former Raiders coach Hue Jackson (who was hired Wednesday to coach the Cleveland Browns).

The 52-year-old Kelly was fired by Philadelphia after Week 16 with one game left in his third season as coach. The former University of Oregon coach was 6-9 in 2015 following two 10-6 seasons, prompting Eagles CEO Jeffrey Lurie to make a change.

Hiring the offensive-minded Kelly could give the 49ers good reason to keep quarterback Colin Kaepernick to work his way back into the dominant, dynamic quarterback he was a few years back. There has been thought that Kaepernick would be Kelly’s ideal type of quarterback.

Deciding on the quarterback will be a major decision for Kelly in the coming months.

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Former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert took over in November for the benched Kaepernick, who has since undergone shoulder and thumb surgeries. Kaepernick’s $11.9 million salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed for injury come April 1, and there had been belief the team might release him or try to trade him.

Baalke interviewed Coughlin on Monday and Jackson on Sunday. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter also interviewed for the 49ers job.