Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Case for Continuity

Brandon Graham
Feb 7, 2015 at 1:00 PM

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Once the reality of separation set in for most 49ers fans, it was too late.

Jim Harbaugh was on on a plane.

Jed York was planning a press conference.

Jim Tomsula was trying on ties.

The argument for/against Jim Harbaugh's coaching tenure is moot. He's been gone for five weeks (longer depending on who you're speaking to) and there's no turning back.

Jim Tomsula has experienced a tidal wave of reaction since earning the head coaching job. From plucky, player-friendly defensive line coach to the head of class hasn't gone without a couple of hiccups.

Jed York wanted a teacher. I think Tomsula fits that description.

But does teaching win games? I guess we'll see.

What of his staff, fans pondered? Perhaps Jim Tomsula can steer the ship, but strong coordinators would make this a sneaky a good hire, the masses suggested.

The message boards would speculate, but ultimately the staff was here all long.

Eric Mangini's stock has certainly seen better days, and Iet's face it, being the guy that replaces Vic Fangio probably isn't going to win him any popularity contests. For fans clamoring as to why the team's Tight Ends coach is now overseeing the defense, lets just say stranger things have happened.

It's 2015, not 2005. Eric Mangini couldn't get a coordinator job anywhere else and yet he's the the 49ers guy?

Mangini has coached on both sides of the football his entire career, but of course became a household name running defenses back in New England. His background specifically with the defensive backfield had to be particularly enticing to the front-office given Tomsula's expertise with lineman coupled with the reality that the linebacking core (when healthy) is as good as any in the league. If either Chris Culliver or Perish Cox (or both) leave during free agency, Mangini can afford extra-time to examine the secondary. This hire could be a boon for for guys like Jimmy Ward and Dontae Johnson.

Geep Chryst's promotion from QB coach to offensive coordinator has clearly been a tougher pill for fans to swallow. Last year's offense lacked any remnants of a once proud ground-and-pound identity and Colin Kaepernick looked like a shell of the player that dazzled fans and ran past outside linebackers in 2012 and 2013.

Kap needs fixing and they hire the guy that directly looked over the broken performances?

Make no mistake, this hire has EVERYTHING to do with Colin Kaepernick. In a flash his career has hit a curious crossroads, making this decision all the more critical. Chryst deserves a plaque for his work since he's been here, from aiding in the reclamation of Alex Smith to getting Kap primed to become a starting quarterback.

For the record, I've always felt that Harbaugh had gotten a bit too much credit for the QB development in San Francisco, while Chryst didn't get enough. I'm not suggesting 50/50, but Geep was hands-on with these guys from day one as well.

The mission is clear on the offensive side (just ask Trent) so Geep's job description is overly-simplified. It seems less about the playbook, and more about the consistency of the play-calling. Again, Chryst has been here, he understands what works and what doesn't.

For those who wanted fireworks when it came the staff hirings I simply say, look around. The outside candidates had plenty of question marks themselves, and I was hard-pressed to pick a general consensus option for any of the open posts.

Fangio was not coming back after getting passed over. Adam Gase certainly wasn't going to run the offense after being led to believe the head job was his to lose.

Ownership understood that the DNA of this team was still intact. They're betting on a healthy and run-oriented offense being closer to being a 12 win team than the .500 squad from last year's campaign.

Why not promote trusted agents to get the alignment back on point?

There's a perception that different means better and therefore an external hire would have provided a fresh restart. It's not a bad theory, I'll give you that.

I just sense that whatever may have been "broken" last season are fixable and fall into the DIY category.

Kap has been getting hands-on instruction from Kurt Warner for nearly a month now. Judging from their social feeds, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman could play tomorrow. The leaders of this team clearly understand what's at stake and are priming themselves for another run.

Any venom aimed at Jim Tomsula's hiring is misguided. Frustration over Harbaugh's departure is understandable, but projecting it over to the new head coach is hardly justified.

Continuity is exactly what this team needed. The results are TBD, but let's see what this staff brings to the table before we proclaim death.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • 50 year FORMER faithful
    Feb 11, 2015 at 6:36 AM
  • mike
    Most of you so-called 49ers fans are idiots!!!!!!!!!! Tell me again about the wonderful job of developing Kaepernick that Harbaugh did? Go back and check the interview with Mike Mayock on NFL Network right after the 49ers drafted CK and listen to Harbaugh say that they're not going to touch Ck's throwing motion!!! Everyboby wnat to give him credit for AL while @ Stanford and AS when he got to the 49ers when he had less to do with developing either one of them but he gets a ton of credit for it! Well, Luck was coached by his older (god)brothers the Manning's and Alex just didn't have anything to work with until Harbaugh got to the 49ers because it was the first time since being drafted that he had ANYTHING to work with on offense except his 2nd season when the 49ers acquired Atonio Bryant (Vernon Davis was still needed to block because the O-line wasn't re-buit yet!!! Question: Who told Harbaugh about Colin Kaepernick?
    Feb 10, 2015 at 12:50 PM
  • Terry B.
    Of course the quote about hiring a teacher came from York. I never said otherwise. What I said was that we should have questioned whether this made any sense rather than simply saying, "hey Tomsula fits the bill." And only the worst sort of homer or apologist could argue that replacing the head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator is a move in favor of "continuity," particularly when you could have kept the better side intact. Good lord. And nice attempt to justify your misspelling. Yeah, why would you use a word like "corps" which would include people like Chris Borland and would make your point much stronger? And you can look at the trajectory of Kap's career and call that "development," but then call me ignorant? Nice. And you don't really make any sort of compelling case that the other candidates had as many question marks as Chryst and Mangini, apparently content to let naked assertions stand as arguments.
    Feb 9, 2015 at 11:57 AM
    Response: You're an impassioned fan, Terry, and I can appreciate that! Final points from me: 1. The whole premise of continuity was clearly stated in the AFTERMATH of Harbaugh's departure. Like you, I believe it was mistake to let him go. However now that he is gone, there were two roads: An internal hire for the sake of continuity or an outside hire. I'm merely discussing as to why they chose the former. 2. Again, I made no mistake regarding the word "core". I meant what I said. Borland was very good in his limited sample size, but I was not alluding to him (Or Brooks, or Wilhoite for that matter). 3. I was very clear that Kap took a step backward in 2014. In order to make that claim one would have to assume that he stepped back from the forward direction he appeared to be heading. Perhaps we see him differently, but I saw a very raw athlete out of college evolve into an above-average QB by the time he was handed over the starting job. I believe Chryst had a hand in this. If you're faulting him for Kap's play this past season then I suppose we just aren't seeing eye-to-eye. Enjoying the debate nonetheless!
  • JC
    My question to you all who are criticizing this move is who would you have rather had? I keep hearing "Tomsula sucks" "Tomsula doesn't have time to be a teacher" "Tomsula is not qualified" so all you armchair GM's tell all who would've been a better fit? If Gase would've gotten the gig we would've heard the same thing, If Shanahan got the gig we would've heard he's too old and what has he done without Elway? I am a long time, die hard fan who loves this hire and I am going to withhold judgment until I see the results. You all who want to bash continue to do so but if and when this team is successful you all will be the first ones to praise him. Mangini has had success as a D coordinator and he's gonna have more talent this year than he ever has to work with, Chryst needs to have start somewhere and if he can call "read option" or "32 dive" than he's just as good as the next guy, and keep in mind as long as Kap is the QB the transition is going to be a slow one. I heard a quote from a caller on KNBR last week who said you cant go from Cunningham to Elway in an offseason, Cunningham turned into a good pocket passer in time.
    Feb 9, 2015 at 10:42 AM
  • Terry B.
    (part 2) No other team had any interest in Mangini or Chryst as coordinators. This is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Your argument for Mangini is really no argument at all. (And the word you're looking for is "corps" not "core.") And Chryst is a good hire because of the work he did developing Kaepernick? Are you kidding? What QB have you been watching? And then you boostrap: we couldn't get good coordinators because of the crappy decision we made in hiring Tomsula. That's supposed to be an argument in FAVOR of this franchise? Next, you claim that "any venom aimed at Jim Tomsula's hiring is misguided." If anything, your column proves the exact opposite of that point. Finally, if your last line is directed at Kaplan, then you did not understand his column at all. He didn't say that THE Niners are dead, he said that HIS Niners are dead. That column was about loss of identity, not loss of existence.
    Feb 9, 2015 at 8:33 AM
    Response: No I meant what I wrote. Core suggested just that, the inner foundation of the position, i.e. Willis, Bowman, and Aldon Smith. Not sure what article you read. I never claimed we couldn't get "good coordinators." I in fact questioned the credentials of outside candidates and suggested Gase would not want a job here after being passed over the top position. I was very clear that Kaepernick took a step backwards last season, but to diminish Chryst's body of work with him is just ignorant. To have Kap ready in the middle of the 2012 season and aid in a game plan catered to his strengths and find immediate success is impressive.
  • Terry B.
    I was wondering how long it would take one of the Webzone writers to make the case for Tomsula. The fact that THIS column is the best that anyone can come up with in defense of the franchise proves, all by itself, just how bad things are. This column is just awful. The franchise wanted a teacher as head coach? Shouldn't we analyze whether this makes any sense before giving the franchise credit for promoting Tomsula to HC? The HC doesn't have TIME to be a teacher; he has way too many other things on his plate. The position coaches do the teaching. If Tomsula is such a great teacher, then you want him right where he was. Why would you take him away from what he does best, and put him in a position that he is obviously unfit for and which requires him to do things he simply cannot do (e.g., give coherent answers in press conferences). The head coach does not need to be a great teacher. Second, how is THIS continuity? We could have had continuity by promoting Fangio to HC, or by hiring someone like Shanahan whom Fangio was willing to stay on for? This is not what continuity looks like.
    Feb 9, 2015 at 8:27 AM
    Response: "I want a teacher" is a direct quote from your owner. I'm merely connecting the dots that Tomsula is defined as just that by Jed York.
  • 50 year FORMER faithful
    The DNA is still intact from the Roadkill I ran over last night as well. THe DNA in JED the Silver spoon is the same DNA as the Incompetent meddling disloyal dentist. The nut didnt fall far from the tree. No matter of decisions by any member of the YORK family will result in winning 49er football. They are proven losers knowing only how to take a good team whom they had lucked into and that they had little to do with creating. They flushed the 49ers down the toilet when they bought the team and only because they lucked into Harbaugh did they have any success at all. Enjoy the ride to 2-14 YORKS you are a disgrace to football with your incompetent egomania and disloyalty to the people who kept you on tv every single year through all your incompetent management. NEVER AGAIN. SO HAPPY TO BE DIVESTED FROM UTTERLY INCOMPETENT DISLOYAL GRREDY MORONS WHO ONLY KNOW LOSING. FU YORK FAMILY FU ALL
    Feb 9, 2015 at 7:40 AM
  • Bo Whitehurst
    I really believe that Tomsula is going to be a diamond in the ruff.. Kaep will be better because he has the potential to be a monster.. And yes let us see before we proclaim. I believe and support the NINERS 4 LIFE.... GO NINERS...
    Feb 8, 2015 at 1:51 PM
  • MistaC
    @NinerGM....That very well could be. I don't think anyone is trying to bash Tomsula. But this decision, and the change in coaching staff could be compared to winning a royal flush, and then winning another the very next hand.....DOUBTFUL
    Feb 8, 2015 at 12:52 PM
  • MistaC
    As far as the options 49ers had in replacing Harbaugh and his coaching staff, I don't think they had any choice but to go with "no-namers". Why would any of the big name coaches want to work for an owner who fired his elite coaching staff because he didn't personally like Harbaugh. (or for that matter, paying an elite coaching staff)
    Feb 8, 2015 at 11:21 AM
  • Shemp
    This is a well written article but I have 2 problems with the "continuity" premise. The first is that if we wanted continuity then Harbaugh would still be coach, and we would still have Roman, Fangio, Solari, etc . The second is that the article implies that the coaches we have now were selected for the sake of continuity. They were not. We sought after new fresh blood, but all that fresh blood didn't want to work for a Dline coach that had been inexplicably catapulted to HC and a GM and owner that value sycophantism more than winning games. Therefore, continuity was not the strategy, it is what happened when everyone else declined and the ones left with no other options were promoted from within. You can engage in revisionist history and call this a continuity strategy, but what we really did was bottom feed scraps with coaches that had no other options. Not what I would call "winning with class'.
    Feb 8, 2015 at 11:11 AM
    Response: Interesting points. I of course am suggesting the continuity angle in the post-Harbaugh era. While I agree letting Harbaugh go was a mistake, the context of this piece was essentially, "he's gone, what now?" I also don't know how much I trust the "fresh blood" reports. If the premise is that we interviewed and or wanted to interview guys who didn't want to come here (which could be), it's hard for me to asses whether or not any of these coaches would have been a leading candidate over the guys who actually got the jobs. Local and national reports seemed to be off and/or in the dark regarding the coaching searches. No one had any record of Tomsula's multiple interviews until after he was hired.
  • NinerGM
    Great read! Regardless of what anyone says, this new coaching staff deserves the right to prove themselves. Remember Tomsula has observed much over the years; watching what Nolan did right and wrong and what ultimately led to his firing; same could be said for both Singletary and Harbaugh. If I had to watch my previous candidates in the saw position I'm now inheriting, you better believe I have a lot of notes. I hear Tomsula is a smart man.
    Feb 8, 2015 at 10:13 AM
    Response: Great point. He's had the opportunity to see what works and what doesn't from three different head coaches within the same organization. That's a wealth of experience right there.
  • 49ers
    The coaching staff could actually work. There's a lot of experience. They were at on time either head coaches or coordinators.Everybody's screaming Game but they fail to realize he's the same coach that can't seem to move the ball against Seattle. The team is talented enough with major injuries to be better than 75% of the nfl
    Feb 8, 2015 at 8:49 AM
  • Edd
    The decision to fire Harbaugh without a plan has resulted in the mess we see now. There were no great external candidates, and even worse internal candidates. When Gase and McDaniels essentially blew off the 49ers, they had no choice but Plan B Tomsula. I like Tomsula personally, but he is totally unproven to even be a coordinator let alone a HC. Now, I fear the 49ers have regressed to the 2000's, with an endless carousel of incompetent coaches. I honestly believe Tomsula is nothing more than an interim coach, and the 49ers will be looking forward to next year's candidates. I know that there are a lot of eternal optimists out there, but this entire coaching staff hire reeks of amateur incompetence. I am particularly disgusted with the hiring on offense. A winning season in 2015 would absolutely surprise me.
    Feb 8, 2015 at 7:44 AM
  • JTS
    Feb 7, 2015 at 7:26 PM
  • RishikeshA
    Sanity seems to be finally setting in. The departure of Coach Harbaugh was a shock to everyone. The idea of not seeing the black sweat shirt and khaki pants on the sideline was inconceivable. We thought Coach would be here through multiple SB victories. Now the new regime, a coach that has never been a coordinator? Let's give this new staff a chance, if everyone comes back healthy we should contend. If Kap progresses the SB Six trophy will be here soon.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 6:51 PM
  • Mikesf
    I concur with the posted comments. I don't know if we got the Three Amigos or the Keystone Cops as coaches for the 49ers. When terrible decisions are made like this, don't look for a winning season next year. Too bad we can't fire Jed York. I thought Adam Gase or Mike Shanahan would have been a better fit than Tomsula. Every hire except for the head coach were rethread. There must have been a reason that these rethreads were let go the first time. I dread the 2015 season.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 5:43 PM
  • Jacko
    It all boiled down to the offensive line (Center/Right Tackle) not being healthy this year. Losing the center and plugging a rookie center with no real center experience at the College or Pro level was devastating to the team. Anyone who knows football understands once you lose your center, the offense is doom to fail. Center makes calls that effects the entire play of each position QB, RB, OG, OT, TE ,WR and Defense (wears down). The top RT was injured most of season. Once the continuity of the offensive line fell apart, the season was lost. Harbaugh (really good coach) and his assistants, who are some of the best in the business could not overcome this kind of adversity. Kap was learning how to stay in the pocket but never had continuity and confidence in his center. Niner fans have a young owner that wanted to be more involved in football decisions but only frustrated the HC whose record speaks for itself. You never hear or see in the media from Allen or Kraft regarding football or player personnel issues but Jed York wants to be recognize. Tomsula (nice guy/player coach) is a band aide fix for now. As fans we are now stuck for years with NO CONTINUITY.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 5:05 PM
  • Marco
    The old saying that the fish stinks from the head down is dead on! Lucky Sperm Jed is a joke, and it all starts there. The NFL is all about Xs and Os. The same talent coached by great coaches will win more games than the same talent coached by lesser coaches. Simple and straight forward. Anyone who thinks that Tomsula, Mangini, and Chryst can win more games than Harbaugh, Fangio, and Roman, is a candidate to buy the Brooklyn Bridge!
    Feb 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM
  • Dixie Love
    Great analysis...
    Feb 7, 2015 at 4:39 PM
  • Lucky Phil
    Wiping my ass on a regular basis is a strong case for continuity. Making the same argument in support of this coaching staff isn't.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 3:43 PM
  • MistaC
    From just watching pre-games, you could clearly see Harbaugh was a good to great teacher. Personally I feel, Make no mistake. This year's lack of success was due to the negative feeling in the locker room, that I'm sure started with Jim. But, because he felt betrayed that upper management didn't bump him up to a high paid coach, that he no doubt in my mind deserved. And then he had to sit and watch SeaGals show there appreciation for his nemesis, and bump him up with a new contract. Had to be humiliating. I HATE what 49ers Upper management have done, by getting rid of a great coaching staff (excluding their OC in my opinion). It sure looks exactly like the low-down way they treated Alex Smith. Makes me wonder if that decision was made by them and not Jim. The 49ers have gone from a Super Bowl caliber team, to an un-proven coaching staff and team. However, I really hope that Tomsula does well. That's all us 49er fans have left, HOPE
    Feb 7, 2015 at 2:47 PM
  • Jerry
    If continuity is what the team needed, then they shouldn't have fired harbaugh. York certainly didn't do it for football reasons. He was recognized through out the league as one of its top head coaches. That being said, it's done. So the next brilliant move by York was to replace him with a line coach. That led to the next disaster which was that they weren't able to recruit quality assistants because the organization is now considered a joke and the laughing stock of the league. Continuity? Give me a break. Of course fans are angry and frustrated. They now know they have an idiot for an owner.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 2:08 PM
  • mbniner
    Gee, a rational and measured response to the coaching change. What?! no histrionics or doomsday is upon us statements? Obviously you will be skewered by the usual suspects that dwell on this site.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 1:46 PM
  • Jeepzilla
    Very thought out well written article. As upset that I am with losing Harbaugh, I do understand the necessity of it. I don't care for the Mangini hire at all, and they could have kept the team "more intact" by promoting Fangio to HC and then move Mangini to DC or DB coach and kept all the current hires they did anyway while at least ensuring a "more stable" Defense.
    Feb 7, 2015 at 1:20 PM

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