Karl Mondon-Bay Area News Group

Karl Mondon-Bay Area News Group

Forget the dismissal of Jim Harbaugh. Yes, that should factor into the conversation, but that has already been discussed to death. This is not yet another piece about Harbaugh. It is a piece about the men that could not coexist with Harbaugh. It is a piece focusing on San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke. We are going to take a look at the mess of a hiring process that took place to find Harbaugh's replacement in San Francisco.

Most of the media has been shocked by what has occurred within the 49ers organization over the past couple of months. This was a team that emerged from mediocrity to once again become one of the elite teams in the league. Now, the near future for the team may not be as bright, fans may not be quick to forgive, and management only has itself to blame.

Long before Harbaugh's departure, the chatter from around the league and those still close to the organization was that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula would be his replacement. Of course, fans figured that this must be plan Z, right? The plan if all else failed. Surely there were better candidates that would be interested in taking over a roster as talented as the one in San Francisco.

The search for a new head coach took a lot longer than anyone thought it would. Even longer than the estimate that York and Baalke gave following the "mutual" separation of the team and its former head coach. This must have meant that they were either being very thorough or that they were waiting for someone specific on a playoff team to become eligible to interview. They had their eye on someone, which meant that a Tomsula scenario might not actually occur.

The team had shown interest in a number of candidates, from guys like former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan to New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The team even had defensive mastermind Vic Fangio, the team's defensive coordinator at the time, as an option. It was all but assured that if Tomsula leapfrogged him for the head coaching job, Fangio was as good as gone. However, Fangio admitted that he might have considered staying if someone like Shanahan were hired. He might have even stayed if someone else was hired, depending on how initial discussions with the new head coach went. This was reason to believe that the team's defensive coaching staff had at least a chance to remain strong after the transition.

Of course, few from the existing coaching staff were given any impression that they would be welcome to return. They were free to interview with other teams while their jobs in San Francisco remained in limbo.

Over the past week, a lot of information came out on what really went down in San Francisco during this whole coaching fiasco. Tim Kawakami really outdid himself during a podcast interview with Harbaugh, where the big take away was confirmation that his departure from the 49ers are far from mutual. After the team's week 15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Harbaugh learned that he would not be allowed to return to the 49ers. Jed York repeatedly insisted that the divorce was mutual. Contrary to what York said, Harbaugh stated, "I didn't leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49er hierarchy left me."

This paints York as a liar and as someone that fans cannot trust.

Later, Kawakami revealed what really occurred with the 49ers' strange and abrupt ending to their pursuit of Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

The team had real interest in making Gase their next head coach. Alone, that did not give fans much reason to rejoice. Gase did not seem like an upgrade to his predecessor. However, it was a fresh face who possibly had fresh ideas and he had experience as an offensive coach — an area the 49ers struggled with this past season. Although, some questioned his skill level. After all, he had Peyton Manning to work with in Denver, but with the right staff around him, this could have been a good hire.

There were reports that the 49ers had a deal in place to make Gase the new head coach after Baalke met with him in Colorado for over seven hours. It even got down to the details on who Gase wanted as his coordinators. Here comes the painful part for 49ers fans. NFL Network's Albert Breer revealed on Monday that Gase wanted to keep Fangio on as the team's defensive coordinator if he was willing to remain onboard. If not, his backup plan included highly regarded secondary coach Vance Joseph of the Cincinnati Bengals.

It's probably no coincidence that the 49ers would later pursue Joseph to be their defensive coordinator after the Tomsula hire.

With the details in place, Baalke traveled back to the Bay Area and it looked like Gase would become the 49ers' new head coach. Gase was even willing to keep Tomsula on as the team's defensive line coach with a title promotion. After all, they worked together on Mike Nolan's staff in 2008.

Then something changed the next morning. Gase was informed by the 49ers that he could only have the job is Tomsula was named his defensive coordinator. Gase said n.

The 49ers then quickly announced the hiring of Tomsula as their new head coach and Gase was out. Of course, after all of this, Baalke would say that the head coaching job was offered to just one person — Jim Tomsula — and that the whole Gase portion was simply "part of the interview process." This was before more of the facts were reported and if you ask Gase, he may have a different answer.

Over the weekend, it was revealed that Fangio would have remained with the 49ers had Gase been hired as the head coach. So the team could have had Gase as the head coach, Fangio as the defensive coordinator, anyone but Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator, and Jim Tomsula would have remained on the staff.

Adding insult to injury, after all of this insanity, the 49ers tried to get Gase to join Tomsula's staff as the team's offensive coordinator. It wasn't enough to insult Fangio, but they had to do the same thing to Gase. The 49ers' loss would become the Chicago Bears' gain as Gase and Fangio landed there as the offensive and defensive coordinators.

After struggling to attract the interest of any external coaches, the 49ers would be left with Geep Chryst as their offensive coordinator and Eric Mangini as their defensive coordinator. Prior to this, Chryst was the quarterbacks coach and Mangini was the tight ends coach. Although, Mangini does have experience on the defensive side of the ball.

A possible coaching problem goes well beyond something that can simply be fixed in a couple of years with another hire. The 49ers will need to continue to focus on the NFL Draft to build the team because San Francisco may no longer be seen as desirable destination for free agents or even assistant coaches and being so close to the salary cap limit will prevent the team from acquiring free agents that are just looking for a pay day.

Last week, it was reported that the 49ers will have the third-toughest schedule in 2015. Just getting through the divisional games will not be a simple task. Every NFC West team is getting stronger. The Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams will likely be healthier and better than their 2014 counterparts and the Seattle Seahawks are the defending NFC Champions. Each team is loaded with talent. The biggest difference between those teams and the 49ers are the coaching staffs. Right now, Pete Carroll, Bruce Arians, Jeff Fisher and their coaching staffs have to be considered stronger than what is in San Francisco. At least on paper they are. When you ask yourself if the 49ers are closer to a first place or last place team within the division, the truthful answer may scare you.

Of course, this team could shock its critics. Stranger things have happened. Of course, we won't know that for over six months and all we can do right now is speculate.

No one is hoping for Tomsula to fail. Quite the contrary actually. When you learn more about him and his career, the guy is genuinely likable and you automatically want him to succeed. Fans are hoping that he succeeds. Players are hoping he succeeds. York and Baalke are probably praying for him to succeed. The problem is that he may have been thrown into a situation that he is not ready for. He bumbled through early interviews with the media in embarrassing fashion. Hopefully, he is a better head coach than interviewee. Hopefully he and his staff surprise us all.

If the 49ers stall out of the gate, no one is going to blame Tomsula. They will blame the men who put him in a position to fail. The same men who let their egos tear apart a strong 49ers team because they could not figure out a way to coexist with the previous regime.