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Former 49er Spencer Tillman confused why the team hired Chip Kelly in the first place



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Spencer Tillman played running back for the San Francisco 49ers from 1989-1991 and helped the team win Super Bowl XXIV in 1990 over the Denver Broncos. He’s also become a big-time college football broadcaster since retiring from the NFL.

Tillman joined The Audible on KNBR 1050 Monday morning to give his thoughts on his former team. His take on Chip Kelly’s future — which according to Jay Glazer, the coach’s job is safe — was interesting.

“I was a little bit confused by his hiring in the first place,” Tillman said. “If you are coming off the heels of a tumultuous situation in Philadelphia in the first place — players felt disenfranchised. Coaches don’t count out players, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. You have to, as a leader, have an ability to engender trust and engender respect. And if there’s a disconnect there, you need people around you that can soften that.

“You have to understand the politics of the game. These aren’t college kids. You don’t have the NCAA lording over them, mandating by rule and law what they do. You have to appreciate that, understand that, and govern accordingly…Collegiate level, you don’t have to get the kids approval. You just do it. It’s an oligarchy. That’s the way it is. But the NFL is different. You have to have a leader that understands that.”

The 49ers are 1-11 but Tillman argues the four games left actually mean something: figure out who loves the sport of football. The 49ers already have $41 million in cap space, and that figure could balloon to $60 million come free agency in March of 2017.

“More than anything else: play hard. Your body will follow your mind. It will do anything you tell it to it,” Tillman said. “I don’t want to see anything being passive. I want to see everyone focused on their assignments. No errors, no busts. Because if you have a lot of errors and things of that nature, it shows you aren’t engaged.”