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Does Tomsula Deserve a Do-over?

Dec 7, 2015 at 8:53 PM

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Brace yourselves. Winter is coming. By that, I mean that year two of the Tomsula era could soon become a reality.

I know a lot of 49er fans, myself included, have this wonderful fantasy about an end of season firing bonanza of Tomsula & Co. and having them replaced [insert your fantasy coaching lineup here] for 2016, but based on the last few weeks and what I suspect was the agenda all along, that just isn't going to happen. Maybe … just maybe – to play devil's advocate for just a moment – they deserve a second chance?

Rewind to January 2015. We all knew. Deep in the back of our minds, we all knew who the job was going to. Hell, it had been hinted at back in 2010. Jim Tomsula was going to be the guy. By all accounts, he is a well-liked, highly knowledgeable guy who is in many ways the anti-Harbaugh. He was the front office's main man all along. Maybe the magical, mystery Paraag Marathe formula of excellence told everyone that are odds of winning the Super Bowl with a well-liked and respected position coach were far higher than with an established, proven coach (this sounds really familiar, btw). No matter how many 'experts' tabbed a Mike Shanahan reunion or a Peyton Manning endorsed Adam Gase, somehow, you just knew Tomsula was going to get the job. And get the job he did.

On paper, it had some potential. As the coaching staff was assembled, you had some well-known names sprinkled in the mix, some with prior head coaching experience. Some continuity on the offense (wait – wasn't that the problem in the first place?) for an embattled quarterback. Overall, some wisdom sprinkled in with some continuity rallied around a 'players head coach.' What could go wrong?

Then there was the offseason. I have been watching football and the 49ers specifically for well over 30 years. I have never seen an offseason like that one. It got to a point where I didn't dare tune into ESPN or NFL Network to hear about the next catastrophe. Say what you will about Jim Tomsula and the manner in which he got the job, but there is not a head coach on Earth that deserves to be handed that kind of debacle and then be expected to 'win championships' (Really Jed? You didn't learn from your win the division escapade?). It just isn't fair. It just isn't right. The football gods were clearly wronged and had set out to smite this organization. Even if the head coach was Bill Walsh reincarnate, there was just no way a rookie head coach should be expected to overcome all that loss and still put out a championship contender.

Then there was opening night. What a great tease. Watching the 49ers manhandle the highly touted Vikings, who up until this past week had been playing very high caliber football, was a thing of beauty and a thing of promise. Maybe our front office really was on to something. Alas, all it took was one week for it all to come crashing down to earth. The wheels came off, and now, to make it worse, our coaching staff, filled with wisdom, expertise and leadership, just couldn't adjust. A revolving door at offensive guard/tackle, a quarterback who has clearly lost all confidence and a seemingly interminable stubbornness from our coaching staff regarding personnel and tactical decision making equaled disaster.

Now staring at a second consecutive non-playoff season and with more holes to fill than a Michael Bay movie, it is easy to grab the pitch forks and march on Santa Clara demanding justice be served. The faithful were promised Super Bowls. They were told to hold our CEO accountable. Really Jed, again? Exactly how should we do this? It isn't like we can vote you off the island. So we turn to Jim Tomsula. We say, "give us his head!" While you're at it, those of your entire staff as well – save maybe Tom Rathman.

With all that being said, we have recently witnessed what can happen when we have a revolving coaching situation. So is a complete reset truly the answer? If not for Blaine Gabbert showing a dramatic improvement from his Jaguar days, I would have said yes. While Colin Kaepernick was tanking, all of us were debating what quarterback we would be targeting in the draft with our first round pick. Jared Goff? Connor Cook? Cody Kessler? The truth is, this is not shaping up to be a deep draft for quarterbacks. It feels like 2005 all over again.

But now that Gabbert has demonstrated that he has the potential to be a bridge quarterback to whoever the next great 49er quarterback may be, that gives this team room to help themselves in more ways than one. With the aforementioned issues along the offensive line, and a sparse pass rush coming from the defensive front seven, it has been clear so far that this team is losing the battle in the trenches. So if Gabbert can, at the very least, be a solid starter, the team can take relatively good draft positions and a hefty chunk of salary cap room available. The time is now for the team to use the draft to take a pass rushing specialist, a run stuffing tackle, and perhaps a fourth round flyer on a developmental quarterback. Then use free agency to re-stock the offensive line.

Assuming that this all happens, and a return to health and depth at key positions like running back and tight end – not to mention actual coaching continuity – perhaps we will get a chance to see what this coaching staff is truly all about. And to be honest, as invested as Jed York and Trent Baalke seem to be in Jim Tomsula – firing Harbaugh, passing up established, maybe even better qualified candidates and even demoting Jed's right-hand man Marathe would seem to point in that direction. Throw in Jed's supersized ego and it feels like nothing short of a complete and utter collapse in the final four games would get Tomsula fired. And when those game include Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis, all winnable games for an improving 49ers team, that too seems really unlikely.

I know these are a lot of assumptions. To me, this coaching staff never should have been hired in the first place, but that was not my call. Year two of the Tomsula era? It might produce playoff football. It might be more of the same as this year – or worse. The question that really has to be answered is ... do they deserve the chance that perhaps they didn't get this season?

They might just be getting it either way.
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.


  • Lucky Phil
    John, I agree with your prediction that York will keep JT and I believe Baalke as well. And also use your excuse that due to the off-season he deserves another season to work with this team; however, It's the wrong decision. We have been down this road with Sing, Nolan and Erickson. Here's what I recommend York do. Fire Baalke, York needs a fall guy, and also a GM who will evaluate this team with a new set of eyes from top to bottom. We all know the best decision for this team is to draft a QB and I also recommend signing RG3 to three yr. deal, low cost but fully guaranteed. We trade Kap and Gab as well. With a new QB we need a new coach and OC. There is no point keeping Geep and JT around one more year just because we need to show the league we give coaches a chance. That's why we fire Baalke to show the league, Baalke made the mistake to fire JH and replace him with JT. York will look like the savoir and show the league he is turning the page. If he doesn't do this, this franchise falls of the map. The fans will not buy into next season unless big changes are made. York is all about the money, if he doesn't make the change he loses fans like me for good. Best teams r proactive
    Dec 13, 2015 at 4:44 PM
    Response: Its not my excuse... it is just the one that Jed will use to justify bringing Tomsula back. Honestly, I don't think there is anyone in the NFL that will ever believe that Tomsula was Trent Baalke's pick. If anyone is going to be the fall guy, it will be Kaepernick. They set that up long ago with that team friendly deal they got him to sign. And RGIII? No thanks. I'd keep Gabbert first, even if I never believed I would ever say that. No more athlete quarterbacks please. Gabbert is a game manager who happens to be a good athelete... keep him to be the bridge player.
  • Lucky Phil
    So, If I understand correctly, we have a crap team and because we have a crap team and no one could win these players we should give JT another year. That seems to be the consensus of opinion, why York will give JT another year. Here's the problem with that logic. Our defense was top 5 last yr, and we lost more players and talent last yr. than we have this year. Our defense this year is god awful against both the pass and run. That's coaching. Our offense should have been better; however with the loss of A. Davis and Killgore we have the worst O-Line in football. I can't blame Baalke entirely, the coaching staff needs to coach up or correctly assess the level of talent on the team. Example, Under Coach Sing our team was believed to have average talent and therefore not playoff caliber. During his time we had R. McDonald sitting on the bench and Bowman backing up Spikes. The coaching staff did not identify the talent on the bench and neither did they implement a winning off. and def. scheme. We wasted numerous seasons. Next year we should draft Jared Goff, Jason Spriggs, Sua Cravens, Desmond King and Corey Davis. Trade Kap, and Gab. Sign RG3. Fire coach and GM. Make my picks, York.
    Dec 13, 2015 at 1:27 PM
    Response: Here is the problem. I would absolutley fire this staff if I could. Today, they were outmatched, outplayed and outcoached in just about every facet of the game. By a team that itself isn't sold on bringing back it's coach or GM. Today, the 49ers were a reflection of the coaches - in over their heads. The issue comes right down to Jed York. He handpicked Tomsula to be his head coach. Turned down multiple others, some with a much more extensive resume. Then talked about this team contending for Superbowls. Got rid of a coach who had turned this franchise around as soon as he got the job. If York truly hopes to attract a top flight head coach to this franchise, he almost has to give his handpicked coach another chance. Why in the world would any coach want to come here, if he cans his anointed one after one season, especially after that offseason? So, in this writer's humble opinion, Jed is going to give his boy one more season to turn it around, whether I agree with it or any other 49er fan likes it or not. Even if it is only to give the appearance of stability. Jed York is perilously close to becoming Dan Snyder without the money.
  • Doc
    I think Tomsula has done an excellent job this season. Too many are focusing on the wins and not observing the small things. Tomsula startd the season with a subpar offensive line the defining part of any football that wins has a strong line. Then all of the retiremnts of personnel hurt too. Collin Kapernick was never a starting QB and lacked the mind to be one, at best a Jim Harbaugh project. Here is what you need to llok at. The defense has held up admirably with more time on the field due to the offense finding its balance. Notice lately the 9ers alomost beat the Cardinals number 2 ranked team and recently the Bears, Atlanta and Minisota. The coaching staff is making the right half time adjustments and Mangini defense looks good for having second string players.
    Dec 9, 2015 at 7:59 AM
    Response: You are going to be in the minority on this... even if I agree with your points about the offensive line, retirements and Kaepernick. Aren't wins the ultimate measure of success in sports? There have definitely been improvements, but if you think about the little things - not recognizing that Tiller was a much better option than Devey; sticking with Kaepernick probably a week or two longer than you should have; awful 3rd down efficiency coupled with terrible 3rd down play calling; not recognizing that running backs out of the backfield are killing us and adjusting; red zone efficiency etc... these little things quickly add up, become big things and that is usually reflected negatively in the W-L column.
  • Jed York
    I am currently signing Jimmy T to a multi year deal right now. He's been outstanding so far. You fans don't know how lucky it is to have such a great owner as myself
    Dec 9, 2015 at 5:54 AM
    Response: Oh Jed. If only this was really you.
  • Lucky Phil
    No. He holds himself accountable for a loss, I hold himself responsible to quit.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 7:56 PM
    Response: Be nice if it worked that way. Highly unlikely that he will quit of his own accord. Maybe we see another 'mutual parting'?
  • AJ Dembroski
    I think firing Tomsula would be out of character for York, who kept Erickson, Nolan, and Singletary around long after they'd proven they weren't head coach material. York's concern is money. He parted with 5 mil to get Harbaugh to town, got his stadium, now he'll return to form and pay guys a tenth of that. Tomsula will coach 3/4ths of next year and give way to Mangini or Sparano for the next 2 years before they too are fired.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 5:09 PM
    Response: Pretty much exactly how I see it.
  • Mninerfan
    This season is over of course so we are discussing this subject.And at this time many niners fans myself included are divided between winning meaningless games or losing for a better draft position.Some good news ,BG playing better than Kap and a better defense but after watching every game this season I still donĀ“t believe that Tomsula are the best coach for the 49ers.He should be fired at the end of the season but unfortunately after the last game and winning Browns and Rams his chances for a second year will be good.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 3:45 PM
    Response: Very true. And maybe it's the former football player in me, but I just can't bring myself to root for the team to lose... There's something inherently un-49er about that. No judgement against those that do, I totally understand why.
  • Michael Taylor
    You know John, management doesn't see it the way I do but other than a brief reprieve with the Harbaugh years, the Niners management has been nothing short of drunk circus clowns running a nuclear facility (Iran has done much better)'s has been embarrassing at times, disgusting at others, but truly unacceptable all the time...if fans, players, and investors really want proper change, buy out the Yorks and put someone in charge that is dedicated to efficiency and winning (think the Krafts)...
    Dec 8, 2015 at 11:39 AM
    Response: It is like they really have no clue what to do, lucked out with Harbaugh then reverted right back again. It sometimes feel as you can only coach this team if you are going to be very nice to the Yorks and never disagree with them.
  • ddmur
    As for needs, we need a wide receiver who truly is a number one at the position.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 11:11 AM
    Response: That would be nice, but I see that as being further down the needs list. And again, we have Trent Baalke pulling the trigger on that, and that has been by far his weakest draft position.
  • g49er
    Thanks for your reply to my prior comment. There is no answer to Baalke/York problems. Can we win games without a star running back or tight end? I think we can. But can we win games with a poor offensive line? I think not. Even Montana & Brady couldn't win when they're running for their lives. Staley looked bad against the Bears and Boone won't stick around for the usual Baalke offer. So at least the first 2 draft picks have got to be quality offensive lineman. Then maybe draft a QB with good potential. After that, we're stuck with whatever injured players Baalke thinks has potential. Walsh was such a master on draft day.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 11:02 AM
    Response: We can certainly win with a running back committee approach, and if the current trio of tight ends we have could stay healthy, I'd be satisfied with that group as well. The trenches are most certainly the biggest need, seeing has how are inability to block, tackle and get a consistent pass rush going has cost us dearly this year. Draft, Free Agency - doesn't matter too much to me how they do it, as long as they do it.
  • Kiko
    Please no! Tomsula is not head coach material. Niners should be 3-9, if not for the missed field goal. I can think of a few names the Niners should consider, if these coaches become available. Sean Payton, Tom Coughlin, Hue Jackson, and Kyle Shanahan. Unfortunately, management likely will decide to give Tomsula another year. An example of how inept Niner management is.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 9:58 AM
    Response: I would love to see Sean Payton take the reins of this offense... but that's a pipe dream. honestly, when I listened to Jed describe what he was looking for, I really thought Mike Shanahan was who he would end up with, bringing Kyle along with him as his OC/Heir. Boy was I wrong.
    Like it or not, Tomsula will be the coach during the rebuilding process. I expect him to be the coach until we have the talent to actually compete again. When the talent is assembled, he will be fired and a qualified head coach will be hired.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 9:15 AM
    Response: This seems to be the most likely outcome.
  • Dan Fryk
    The premise of the article is worthwhile exploring. I believe it may even happen. During the fiasco that was the Harbaugh firing and all the leaks and nonsense that led up to it, there were numerous reports from around the league that the fraternity of coaches were looking at the once-proud SF franchise like the red-headed step child. IOW, no self-respecting coach wanted nothing to do with it unless it came with a complete change in the FO and a boat load of money. So, for whatever reason, Tomsula accepted the job, and like him or not, he is now a part of that fraternity. If he were to be dumped now after one year at the helm of this foundering ship, the coaching fraternity would only heap more fuel on the fire that is the "Good Ship Jed." I would love to see a change but if Gabbert can continue to play as he has, and the team win another 2 or 3 games, the only changes I expect would be some new position coaches, and that may be only a dream. In today's NFL, ruled by the quest for mediocrity where a loser one year becomes the darling next year, a couple of astute draft picks and some FA repair along the OL could boost this team into a wild card slot.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 9:05 AM
    Response: It is really sad where Jed has taken this team. I would have hoped someone who was raised surrounded by the glory years and who has a sure fire mentor on ownership readily available would show some signs of progression. Doesn't look that way. This just isn't a franchise that top tier coaching talent seems to want to be around, and who can blame them. Hence why we are going to be in for the intermediate haul with Tomsula.
  • Robert
    I always liked Tomsula... I liked him in NFL Europe and I liked it when Nolan hired him as an assistant. He was the main reason our front four had been so dominant before the departures. However, i never wanted him as our head coach. I agree, he should never have been hired, because we've seen this all before with Singletary. The main guy that created this whole fiasco in the first place is Baalke. He's the one that should be the slaughtered lamb. He let starting free agents go with no adequate replacements, should have known about players who's hearts weren't in the game anymore and would probably retire, he should have prepared better in the draft. He failed on all counts, but unfortunately, he'll probably be back. Even if we get a high draft pick, I have no faith that he can select the right talent for this team, he just doesn't get it. Reminds me of Terry Donahue; cocky, arrogant, and in complete denial. But what can you do, but continue to watch. Getting this team of holes to 7 and 9 would be quite an accomplishment and deserves a re-do. At least that's what York is thinking.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 8:36 AM
    Response: Indeed. I really hoped they had learned from Singletary that phenomenal position coaches (which I'm not sure Singletary was even that) don't make good head coaches, unless they are surrounded my top tier coordinators. And none of those coordinators wanted to come to the 49ers, clearly. And yes, Baalke should be on notice.
  • Sylvester Newton
    Why does everybody keep blabbering on about Gabbert? He's benefited from Devey being out of the lineup, the same dude who made Tom Brady look incapable & even with all the improvement of Gabbert, the team is putting up the exact same 13-14pts per game through regulation they have all year..through 4 qtrs yesterday Gabbert had 125yrds passing 0 passing TDs, a 44yrd rushing TD & the offense generated a grand total of(drum roll) 14pts!!! The exact same kind of numbers people were KILLING Kapernick over..doesn't matter who the qb is we get the same product on the field..we have one win against a team with a winning record. This team needs to clean house from the very top down starting with Baalke & his putrid drafts & Tomsula who sacrificed his original starting qb, sacrificed chances of trying to win games & chose punting just to keep the score more respectable, who's teams have came out looking completely unprepared throughout this entire season(Steelers, Cards 1st game, both games against Seattle), nobody should be lending any kind of credence to why he should keep his job.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 7:54 AM
    Response: A quarterback with virtually 0 first team snaps came in with the exact same offense (excluding Devey) and with a makeshift running game and a banged up Boldin... And has executed with far better efficiency than Kaepernick. I could show you numbers from Super Bowl winning QB's that you'd think how was that possible. Numbers don't always tell the whole story. Was that Gabberts best game? No. But he shows more pocket presence, more downfield awareness and more confidence than Kaepernick was showing. That is why the change was made. That's why it needed to be made. I think Kaepernick and Gabberts numbers are similar due to the scheme of the offense. Gabberts just seems better equipped to take advantage when that same terrible scheme lets him.
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    Who cares? The real question is leadership at the top. Unfortunately, that is not going to change. This team will never be an elite team for the next 3-5 years at least as long as the current upper management is in place.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 7:21 AM
    Response: I think 3-5 years is optimistic.
  • Michael Taylor
    Uuuhhh NO...and not just NO but hell NO...I don't know how SF changes for the better but wasting another year on this group isn't the answer...
    Dec 8, 2015 at 6:40 AM
    Response: Don't think 49ers management sees it that way.
  • Jeb dork
    The 49ers barely win a couple of games against inferior teams now you're all on their jock. Shame
    Dec 8, 2015 at 5:27 AM
    Response: Hardly
  • Steve Green
    Good article, and I know you'll get crucified for it but Jimmy T has had a rough first season (I won't go over the retirements and Aldon again) and if he finishes 7-9 (or even 8-8 if the Bengals decide to play backups against us in a fortnight he won't have done much worse than Harbaugh last year. My frustrations this year have been the o-line, the leaks from the FO, Jed being, well, Jed, personnel and inconsistency (great defense one week, swiss cheese the next). The last two should improve in a second season with Tomsula not second guessing himself to change the line-up. If the team finishes 6-10 or 7-9 I'd keep him and see what improvements can be made. However, the OC and STC need replacing. Both are as awful as the right side of the o-line. Oh, and Hayne, we need to see Hayne back on the team.
    Dec 8, 2015 at 5:12 AM
    Response: Thanks! I'm sure I will too. But that's ok, I am just as frustrated with the product on and off the field as anyone else. But Mr. York is going to use all the turmoil at the beginning of the season and the teams improved play over the last few weeks to justify giving Tomsula one more try. For him to fire the staff at seasons end would mean York admitting his mistake, and he has done nothing in his tenure for me to believe that will happen.
  • Chuckm
    Althought I understand your point....the answer is still no!!!
    Dec 8, 2015 at 4:41 AM
    Response: Thanks! And agreed.
  • Arturo Bradley
    49erswebzone writers always complain and cry a river in all of their articles. Considering they cover SF 49ers, they cant even cover positives or at least any silver linings. Its always about how Kap sucks or Tomsula is a potato. At least Gabbert is playing decent and won on the road, how about writing about that?
    Dec 8, 2015 at 2:10 AM
    Response: I did discuss Gabbert's potential to at least be a bridge quarterback for the team... if the team is going to invest a draft pick and develop a young quarterback, having someone on the roster that they can learn from while not having to be rushed onto the field is a good thing - something Gabbert himself might agree with. I have been really surprised by what I have seen from Gabbert and would like to see what he could do with a real offensive line in front of him and a healthy Hyde in the backfield. See - silver lining :)
  • g49er
    Please!! Our right offensive line is/was 2 castoff free agents. And what a disaster. Forget about taking any other position for at least the first 2 picks.
    Dec 7, 2015 at 11:22 PM
    Response: I just don't have faith in Trent Baalke's ability to draft Guards... so if we get a healthy and motivated Anthony Davis back - a really big if, I admit - we could make a free agent splash on a Guard and save at least our first draft pick on an impact pass rusher to pair with Aaron Lynch.
  • Pops
    Dec 7, 2015 at 10:50 PM
    Response: Thanks, I always love getting feedback in the form of punctuation!
  • Dave Barnes
    God I hope not. He might be a nice guy, he might be a good position coach, but he's no head coach.
    Dec 7, 2015 at 10:37 PM
  • robert
    He still needs to go
    Dec 7, 2015 at 10:14 PM
  • Dan Waterman
    No, him and brown nose- dumpster diving, drafting injured player GM Baalke must go. I personally think that Chicago tried very hard to lose the game and they did. They should win the Cleveland Game also. That does not change anything except they are screwing up their draft order. Yorks have done it three possibly four times if you add Erickson deal. However, at Candle Stick they did not have $650 million dollar loan, they got away with it. Here at Levis empty seat would hurt their pocket eventually no matter how many other events they keep in the stadium. Football is their main business. Having said that, Tomsula is Jed York ego hire, he will keep him, this means be ready for another 5-11 season.
    Dec 7, 2015 at 10:10 PM
    Response: I agree, I too am done with Trent Baalke. The man seems incapable of drafting an OG or WR and I am sick and tired of the all ACL squad.
  • JT
    Dec 7, 2015 at 9:15 PM
  • ant Chon
    Bla bla ..the only real question is if BG is the next Jeff Garcia or the next Shawn Hill...will see
    Dec 7, 2015 at 9:10 PM
    Response: That is a great question. Would really like to see a rebuilt offense around Gabbert given what I have seen in 4 games this season with the disaster surrounding him right now.

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