Making a case for Jim Tomsula

When you really break it down, it’s not the fact that Jim Tomsula was hired to be the San Francisco 49ers head coach, but they way the situation played out that has everyone in an uproar.

After all, there were rumblings for some time that Tomsula would eventually take over for Harbaugh. It just didn’t seem like that situation would be imminent given the recent success of the team.

When Harbaugh and San Francisco actually did part ways, it probably would have made the most sense to make the move to Tomsula rather quickly, especially if he was the front runner all along.

But CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke didn’t see it that way, and led an extensive search that generated buzz around names like Mike Shanahan, Vic Fangio and Adam Gase. 

Gase, by some reports, appeared to have the job in the bag but wouldn’t commit to Tomsula as the defensive coordinator which ultimately cost him the position.

Right or wrong, hearing a story like that makes York’s move to hire Tomsula seem like a power play by an owner who wants full control over what his team does. In turn, he made Tomsula appear to look like a puppet that he and his general manager could move in any direction they wanted to.

As bad as it looked, none of what happened was Tomsula’s fault. He’s taken his share of criticism anyway though, and much of what’s been said is a bit unfair. Truth be told, Tomsula could be a diamond in the rough, and may be just what the 49ers need coming off a tumultuous season.

For starters, look at the success he’s had since he joined the franchise in 2007 as their defensive line coach (a position he held until taking the head job).

Over the eight seasons in which Tomsula was in charge of the d-line, the 49ers rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (98.4), second in yards per attempt (3.72), and third in points allowed (19.4). In 2011, the unit set an NFL record by not allowing a rushing touchdown in their first 14 games and only surrendered three the entire season.

Need more proof? Take a look at how his position group has fared individually.

Justin Smith has made five Pro Bowls and been selected to three All-Pro teams since joining the 49ers in 2008. He had never received either accolade in the seven seasons prior to working with Tomsula.

Linemen like Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois made an impact with the 49ers, but were virtually invisible after leaving the team.

Glenn Dorsey, who was selected fifth overall in the 2008 draft, was seen as a disappointment in his five years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He flourished as a nose tackle with the 49ers in 2013 before getting injured.

Demarcus Dobbs, Ian Williams and Tony Jerod-Eddie all went undrafted, but have gone on to be successful role players for San Francisco under Tomsula .

Despite never being a coordinator in the NFL, Tomsula is not completely unprepared to step to the forefront. He was the head coach for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe in 2006, and went 6-4 in his only season there before coming to San Francisco.

He also took over to coach the final game of the 2010 season after the 49ers fired Mike Singletary, and led San Francisco to a dominating 38-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The defense forced three turnovers, sacked Arizona quarterbacks six times, and scored a touchdown as well.

Offensively, Alex Smith finally played free and loose, tossing two touchdown passes and throwing for 276 yards.

In short, it was a complete performance which was something that was rarely seen during the 2010 season.

While the media and part of the fan base have taken their shots at the Tomsula hire, the same sentiment doesn’t seem to resonate with the most important people in the equation: The players.

“It’s a good move. I look forward to fighting for Jim Tomsula,” said tight end Vernon Davis. “Tomsula, just the energy that he provides during the games and having a relationship with him, I can tell that (for) players, he’s one of those coaches players wouldn’t mind playing for. Just his spirit. He’s a good guy and a terrific coach. He’ll allow you to go out and do whatever you can do. He’ll put each and every individual in place to perform at a high level.”

Justin Smith seems to feel the same way David does, and once called Tomsula the best coach he’s ever had in the NFL. He also noted that it’s well known around the league how much knowledge Tomsula has.

Safety Eric Reid sounded thrilled with the hire by saying, “I think I can speak for a lot of guys when I say that we will all love to play for him.” Even former 49ers added their two cents, as Takeo Spikes took to Twitter to say Tomsula was “One hell of a coach that has an exceptional way of teaching.”

Make no mistake about it, the players are going to give their all for Tomsula.

Now, does any of this guarantee success? No. There are still many other factors to consider like health, how the new coaching staff will mesh, whether or not Colin Kaepernick can turn it around, etc. But the 49ers have not hired a bumbling idiot here, and Tomsula won’t be in over his head like some other post-Mariucci/pre-Harbaugh hires. And before he’s judged, he deserves a fair shot to see what kind of product he can produce in between the lines.

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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