Is Jim Tomsula just Jed York’s puppet?

There’s a strong possibility that Jim Tomsula will turn out to be a very good head coach in the NFL. He’s been an excellent defensive line coach for the 49ers since 2007, he’s passionate, personable and the players love him. However, given the way the 2014 power struggle between Jim Harbaugh and Jed York/Trent Baalke played out, it may be hard for some not to look at the situation as simply York and Baalke getting their puppet.

On the surface, promoting Tomsula may seem like the front office is trying to keep continuity amongst the coaching staff. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. 

According to reports, the only assistant that will be retained is running back’s coach Tom Rathman. In addition to being a star fullback for the 49ers from 1986-1993. Rathman also served on the coaching staff from 1997-2002 and 2009-present.

The point is, like Tomsula, he’s not a Harbaugh guy, he’s a 49ers’ guy.

As far as the rest of the staff, it appears that they are all free to pursue other avenues (offensive line coach Mike Solari does have a meeting scheduled to talk about his future with the team), although according to Matt Maiocco, most of the coaches were still in the dark about their fate even after Tomsula was named head coach.

It seems like York and Baalke are trying to cut ties with as much of the Harbaugh era as possible, which makes absolutely no sense given how successful it was.

Under Harbaugh, San Francisco returned to relevance again, going 44-19-1 since 2011 with appearances in three straight NFC Championship games as well as Super Bowl XXXVII.

Now the offensive staff did need an overhaul, as Colin Kaepernick has regressed and the unit in general was a mess for much of 2014. But beyond that, the 49ers were mostly a sound, well coached team.

York and Baalke knew that their ultra-successful defensive coordinator Vic Fanigio was interested in the job, and passing him over for anyone sans a veteran coach (i.e. Mike Shanahan) would mean he would bolt for the door. But the team has other options in-house to man the defense, including secondary coach Ed Donatell.

It appears that San Francisco is set in bringing in an entire new staff however, and that the front office will help in the search. Now, it’s possible York and Baalke just want to help a brand new coach get started, it’s also possible they want to exert control over who Tomsula hires.

Baalke mentioned early in the coaching search that this was not a rebuilding situation, but a reloading situation. That’s curious, because team’s that are looking to reload don’t clean house like the 49ers did. They keep as much of what has made them successful as possible, and make adjustments where needed beyond that.

But there will be no tinkering in San Francisco. Instead, we’re in the midst of completely overhauling one of the NFL’s most successful franchises over the last half-decade. It’s a demolition job spearheaded by the an owner and general manager who want a coach that will “play nice” with the front office.

In the end, who knows, maybe this is the move that gets the 49ers over the hump and York and Baalke will be vindicated. But, fair or not, Tomsula will always be judged against Harbaugh. That means if he doesn’t achieve similar results he will be looked at as a failure. 

Actually, it’s York and Baalke who will (should) be looked at as failures if all of this comes crashing down. After all, they’re the ones pulling the strings.

Photo: Getty Images





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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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