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Realizing What Effect Inexperience Has on 49ers Coaching Staff

Sep 28, 2015 at 11:44 PM

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I waited a couple of weeks to put my thoughts out there; "perspective," I told myself. I wanted to see how the 49ers would follow up their opening Monday Night win against the Vikings. Up next were two playoff contenders in Pittsburgh and Arizona. Specifically, the Arizona game would be a true litmus test for the Niners, as they would be playing an opponent that they know well in a place that they've proven they can win.

Well, we all know how that went.

I've gone on the record saying that I think that Jim Tomsula is a great person and has potential as a head coach if he is put into the right system. He has an endearing story of rising up from the bottom and making it big, all the while staying grounded once he made it big. However, what we've been witnessing the past two weeks is a systemic failure – a byproduct of inexperience and a lack of chemistry amongst the coaching staff.

Look, the numbers don't lie. Colin Kaepernick was bad – historically bad – but we're not here to talk about that. As Jim Tomsula said about the performance: "That starts and ends with me." The purpose is not to bash coach Tomsula, but more to look at where the system has failed in the last 2 games.

I realize that it's early in the season and that Tomsula deserves at least a full season with which we can judge him by, but the last two losses were eerily Erickson/Nolan/Singletary-esque. The unfortunate part is that this team is arguably more talented than any of those teams were.

On the surface, it appears as though the scheme from the Vikings game was drastically different from what we've seen the last two weeks. Unlike week 1, there have been very few designed rollouts, swing passes, and screens. The first two plays of Sunday came straight out of the Mike Singletary playbook, with running back Carlos Hyde getting stopped behind the line on each of them. This led to the 3rd and long on which Kaepernick threw his first pick-six.

Had offensive coordinator Geep Chryst displayed better game management and called a safer play – like a screen, swing to a running back or any other quick hitting play – the 49ers offense could have at least avoided handing the other team points on their first drive of the game. This also happened later on in the game when the Niners were own their own 1 and Kaepernick handed the ball to Hyde 2 yards deep in the end zone instead of just trying to sneak it forward to get some punting room.

Mismanagement of the game wasn't exclusive to just the offense. The defense once again struggled and let receivers (most notably future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald) run free and uncovered. Cardinals running back Chris Johnson had the most yards rushing that he's had in almost 3 years.

Just like in week 2 against the Steelers, 49er defenders were routinely out of place as Arizona was scoring at will. Had defensive coordinator Eric Mangini put the Niners best cover man, Tremaine Brock, on Fitzgerald (or on Antonio Brown the previous week), the 49ers would not have had to allocate a safety to come over and help with the double team. Having an extra defender near the line of scrimmage would have helped to stop Johnson. While Mangini is an experienced coach, he's never coached as a part of this particular coaching staff with this particular group of players.

I find it hard to believe that previously reliable players like Eric Reid, Antoine Bethea, Glenn Dorsey, Navorro Bowman, Vernon Davis and Torrey Smith have all of a sudden forgotten how to play football and are now ineffective. Football is about winning matchups, and each of the aforementioned players is losing their individual battles. Their ineffectiveness can be attributed to the scheme, or lack thereof.

After Kaepernick threw his second interception, Tomsula noted that he wanted to settle the team (and his quarterback) down. The 49ers did this by calling 13 consecutive running plays. Tomsula's inexperience showed as there were a number of other ways to "settle his team down"; he could have called a time out to talk things over, he could have ordered Geep Chryst to call quick-hitting pass plays to boost confidence and keep the chains moving or he could have just let Kaepernick play through it instead of putting the handcuffs on him. It could be said that his limited experience in that situation led him to come up with a limited number of ways to fix the situation.

The rest of the game continued on this way, with odd play calls and a limited passing attack. It's almost as if the coaching staff threw in the towel, but forgot to take the starters out. Leaving the starters in for so long and risking injury was definitely a rookie mistake. The game was long decided and Kaepernick was still running around and avoiding sacks - not something you want your $18 million/year quarterback doing. The better move would have been to let the backups get some time.

Moving forward, there are several areas that need to be addressed and it seems as if Tomsula is hesitant to give ineffective players the hook. More experienced coaches have a better pulse on their team and can sense when something isn't working a lot sooner, so they'll make changes sooner. My fear is that Tomsula will wait too long to make changes and the season will be lost.

In defense of Jim Tomsula, he's only had 4 games of experience as a head coach in the NFL and not everyone comes into the league and sets it on fire the way Jim Harbaugh did in 2011. Few people realize that the early games in a season also serve as an experimentation period for new coaches to see what works and what doesn't. It should be noted that inexperience also means inexperience working together as a staff. Right now, it seems like there's very little cohesion on the staff because the coaches don't know exactly what they have at this point, thus the odd play calls.

The good news is that there have been teams that have started off terribly, only to figure things out and become contenders. Tomsula has been great in accepting responsibility and being accountable. The schematic problems can be changed. The offense can call for more quick hitting plays like there were in week 1, the defense can play more man coverage and Jarryd Hayne can take DeAndrew White's spot on kick returns.

Make no mistake, Sunday will be a defining moment for Jim Tomsula's 49ers. Coming off of a losing streak and being embarrassed twice, let's just hope the 49ers can compete with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the high-powered Green Bay offense.

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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.


  • Jim T
    I feel our butt holes are all a little looser - Jim Tomsula
    Oct 4, 2015 at 8:59 PM
  • zach amin
    He is a one year wonder.
    Oct 4, 2015 at 6:44 AM
  • Michael Sawyer
    Make no mistake that Jim Tomsula is NOT the right coach for the 49ers. With experience and quality coaches to choose from, we get Jim Tomsula. He should be one and done! There is no way the team should be this bad so quickly. Perhaps it is time to get rid of Baalke as his picks have been terrible. Just look at the AJ Jenkins pick. Jed needs to wake up and listen to his uncle how to win. New stadium does not equal a great team. Three games may not be the barometer but I doubt the 49ers will do any better than a 5-12 records. Bottom line: Get rid of Jim Tomsula!!!!!!
    Oct 2, 2015 at 6:11 PM
  • Sinmiedo
    Come on.. this was a high school play book..those plays where pathetic.. get another OC.. u guys should of stayed with Game. Or Mc Carthey ..the one knew where to be.. that zone was bad.. no communication out there.. on who was crossing
    Oct 1, 2015 at 8:07 PM
  • Niner
    Sadly this appears " acceptable " to the Yorks. Harbaugh was needed to establish the new stadium and increase the teams value which plummeted in comparison to other teams post mooch. Now the little emperor has it all, no salaries for harbaugh, Roman fangio gore iupati Willis Davis smith brothers etc... He's laughing at the fans all the way to the bank. ( Kap and vd are gone next year as well)
    Sep 30, 2015 at 11:15 PM
  • james Carson
    Schemes don't matter, how good or bad the players play don't matter, what Jim Tomsula says don't matter, none of it matters. The sad truth is the Dorks had the closest thing they were ever going to come to their Bill Walsh and they tossed him out with the trash, they thought they knew better. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. So much for all the Jed is more like Eddie talk. Jed is much more like the father DORK, he is even worse. Terrible owners = terrible team. Jerry Jones got nothing on the Dorks, they are the worst owners in NFL right now. Time to hold Jed accountable per his suggestion.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 9:42 PM
  • VaNiner
    Everyone believes the sky is falling. What do you expect the coaching staff to do? Agree? Let's be real. If the Niners are 8-8, its a testament to the creativity of this coaching staff. Expectations should be lower given the roster turn over this year. That is not the coaching staff's fault. It's not even Trent Baake's fault. How could you predict Kaepernick would continue regressing. Since January 2014, he as not learned, grown, and evolved into the position. It falls on Colin. The coaches creative schemed an offense tailored to his skill sets. Yet Colin under threw Vernon Davis, completely missed Tory Smith, was late twice to Bolden, and collapses his own pocket. Joe Gibbs went 0-7 before turning around to an 8-8 season and three super bowls. Walsh's first year was a disaster. Three games is too early to tell.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 2:40 PM
  • Fan
    I am sure JT is a great guy but players need a leader! When GB blows us out next week what will be said? Here's what we learned from a 3rd blow out? IMO the JT hire was and is a mistake and should be corrected immediately. A NFL head coach needs to demand respect and lead by example. From JT 1st interview it was blatantly obvious he is not a leader and that we were in serious trouble. Personally I am disappointed how the JH deal shook out. But it seems JH's MO is to wear out his welcome everywhere he goes so not much of a surprise. Unfortunately this season is already over 3 games in Jed and Trent have gone radio silent IMO because they realize their mistake now. By reading these posts the fan base will remain since we are die hard 49er fans. But after next week I do not see the team rallying around JT we will see injuries stack up. And IMO is most likely the leading cause to the exodus of players. They realized their was a problem and weighed their options. At least they have a choice unlike us fans who stick with it thick and thin.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 2:06 PM
  • disappointed 49er faithful
    You know it really seems to me that the 49ers Built a team long enough to get their 1.2 billion dollar stadium built and suck in all the season ticket holder seat licenses and then dismantle the team. I speak as a former candlestick season ticket holder for over 10 years. I am so glad I got out when I did. This team, the coaching staff, and the ownership has become an embarrassment to the NFL and the loyal fans of the San Francisco 49ers. The worst is yet to come.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 1:43 PM
  • AKfanster
    Inexperience isn't the problem. The problem is the defensive coordinator trying to out scheme the opposing team which clearly isn't working. The defense looks confused and are constantly out of position. The offensive line is a joke, easily one of the worst in the league. The quarterback can't play professional level quarterback either, which doesn't help either
    Sep 29, 2015 at 12:06 PM
  • Zoobi123
    He is doomed from start. This is his first and last year with 49ers. 49ers became a laughing joke of the NFL.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 11:48 AM
  • Jerry N. Soriano
    The response to all of this is imaginative and challenging, in all areas. Coaches have to input, copy, and design an offense that can only get better. The answer is not being afraid to go back and looking at what Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, were all about. A road to success was created to leap over average play, in a work in progress. This may not come soon but could in the next game against Green Bay.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 10:39 AM
  • hector
    When rumors about Harbaugh will be leaving SF started, I knew Niners would return into their gloomy days. Same happened when Terry Donahue decided to get rid of Mooch, Garcia and let T.O. do his bidding after that awful trade and result was catastrophic. Eventually tried a new thing w McCloughan & Nolan but without an OC staying more than a season and choosing Smith over Rodgers was also a failure.Jed York promised changes if season turn out to be bad and if it continues then he has to step aside of football decisions, get rid of Baalke, Parage and entire coaching staff with personnel capable of bring results rather than testing players in the process. I want Holmgren back as VP/GM and build with their guys back to our glory days.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 9:22 AM
  • Tim
    I for one am not blaming the coaching staff. The coaching staff simply accepted job offers. They didn't decide to put themselves in charge. This is all on Jed York. Which brings up the biggest question of all. Where is Jed York? He was all bravado after firing Jim Harbaugh and blaming the player conduct on him with his winning with class statement as he showed him the door. Now we are losing with a mouth breather head coach... Jed York did this and its clear he doesn't have a clue what he is doing. He just took one of the best NFL teams and dismantled it in one offseason under the guise of creating a classy organization. This isn't classy, this is ****. Pure ****. Where are you Jed York? Because from the looks of it, you are taking steps back while setting up your next fall guy.... Jim Tomsula. Even Baalke was all over the practice field and media in training camp and before the season.... right up until aldon smith was released... then he couldn't even attend the press conference in regards to that matter because according to him he was coddling Aldon Smith over at his house while the press conference was being aired. If you believe that.....
    Sep 29, 2015 at 9:17 AM
  • Tim
    We need to get back to our roots. They need to call plays that are to Kaps strengths. Just like RG3 they tried changing his style of play and he is now a 3rd string QB. Kap has the talent to be great if our coaching staff adjusts there play calling to Kaps strengths. Look at Peyton Manning week 1 when Denver tried changing his style of play with Kubiaks run happy offense. It didn't work and Peyton looked terrible. Week 2 in the second half of the game the coaching staff let Peyton play his game and ever sense the Broncos offense has looked ALOT better. Jim Harbaugh new how to develop a QB by calling plays to their strengths. That's how Alex Smith's and Kaps play excelled. We have to let Kap play his game or the Niners season is done and more than likely Kaps days will be limited with the Niners.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 9:04 AM
  • Nick
    Kap does not have the "it" factor. Has the physical tools but not the smarts and we always knew that it is not a surprise to any knowledgble niner fan. Problem is Baalke drafting project players in the first couple rounds and not even trying to pick up any quality free agents to replace the departures on the O line and the D. Because of this, Kap is now exposed and regardless of who is coaching this team they are in for a lot of trouble. Harb had the foundation of some talent on D and the O line to build upon. I feel real bad for Tomsula inherting this mess.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:57 AM
  • Angelos Guillory
    I like all of what your article says. I will add that I believe the 9ers need a 100% redesign not a rebuild. They need all new coaches and possibly a new G.M. They are much too arrogant to rationalize properly. All of the very good 9er teams in the past had a very good passing game which included very good passing quarterbacks that were game intelligent. I wish we had the same now.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:32 AM
  • Mark Saldana
    It's funny how much credit is given to harbaugh for the defense, singletary & Mike Nolan made the defense for what it was fangeo just used it to the best of his ability and that is being shown in Chicago Lmao!!! When injurys happened the coaching staff had know clue on how to fix it, are offense struggled and so did kap, and what happens to a team that counted on the defense to pull them out they go 8-8 lucky it ended like that. It doesn't matter if harbaugh would of stayed or anyother coach would of taken over the team would be in the same place there at now. It's time for 49ers to rebuild and get back to the playoffs.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:06 AM
  • Carl
    The destruction of this team was ridding themslves of Harbaugh and his staff. As an insurance policy to ensure the franchise loses for years... the 49ers paid their worst starter (Kaepernick) so much money that they could no longer afford the best roster in football.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:03 AM
  • peter
    Your thinking is much like many 49er fans. You have difficulty accepting reality. If you look at what took place this off season these past two games make perfect sense. They have a horrible defense and offense. This team has very little talent on both lines and a horrible coaching staff. Don't you remember nobody wanted any of these coaches. I am a long time 49er fan but everyone must face the facts. This team will not being winning games for a long time. There next good chance to win will be in Chicago or Cleveland. That's their best shot. I am not a homer, but a realist.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 6:16 AM
  • don
    There is so much fear/lack of confidence on Offense starting with Kaepernick they are unable to do anything. You cannot play Offense in fear. You must attack. The seed for this offense regression is their O line. As the O line began falling apart starting in 2014 so did Kaepernick.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 6:09 AM
  • Edd
    Zain, you are dead wrong with your title. It is not inexperience, it is incompetence. None of this coaching staff is new to the NFL, they are veteran coaches. And they are terrible veteran coaches. The players are not showing up for the games, and Tomsula appears bewildered every time they show his face. I cant stress enough they need to fire this entire staff and get real coaches.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 6:05 AM
  • ??erfanin Japan
    Sorry but A Rodgers will pick apart the secondary. And the offense has proven it can't score on a playoff caliber team. I love the 49ers--but look for another rout.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 1:34 AM
  • Dr.D
    Scheme wise they tried to defend Fitzgerald with a LB in the slot and running a zone in the first quarter and it didnt work at all (not a big surprise really) but they stuck with it until I turned off the stream in disgust. Really poor coaching/gameplanning.. Offense wise they somehow went away from the quick rythm playstyle they used in the first game and it probably has to do with communications at the line in a loud environment on the road. If the last 2 games are any indication this team will not win a single game on the road this year..
    Sep 29, 2015 at 1:31 AM

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