SANTA CLARA — Jim Tomsula’s ascent to the top has been anything but ordinary. But on Thursday evening, the 46-year old journeyman’s career reached its pinnacle.
In a place he’s called home for the last eight years, Tomsula was officially announced as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
The stint will mark Tomsula’s first real stint as a head coach in the NFL after the underdog candidate leapt over seemingly more-qualified candidates the 49ers supposedly targeted during their two-week search.
With San Francisco supposedly targeting high profile names such as Denver’s Adam Gase or their own Vic Fangio, the promotion of Tomsula left many scratching their heads. But for 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke, Tomsula wasn’t just another option, he was the only one:
“There’s no doubt in my mind as we went through the process that this was the right man for the job. He checked all the boxes. He’s an individual that I had the privilege of working with for eight years now. And through the interview process he really identified himself, sold himself on what he was going to do bring this organization together, bring this football team together, and lead us to a lot of success both on the football field and off the football field.”
The job is a career high for the 31-year coaching veteran who has seen his share of lows.
From living out of his car, to working dead end jobs just to continue his dream of coaching football, the personable Tomsula now sits atop one of the premiere franchises in American sports, a position he is not taking lightly:
“I get it. I get the decision that these men just made. I get it. I accept it. I know what it is and I’m real excited about it, real excited about it.”
“I understand the responsibility and understand that people are counting on things to get done the right way, a certain way. I clearly understand the expectations of the ownership on and off the field. I clearly understand the expectations of the general manager. With that, it’s very exciting.”
Tomsula has been a model of consistency throughout his tenure with the organization. During his eight year career as defensive line coach for the 49ers, he has honed a number of Pro-Bowl caliber players, including DT Justin Smith, as well as developing a unit that has held opponents to the fourth-fewest rushing yards in the NFL since 2007.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
But despite the prosperity that Tomsula’s unit has seen, the question remains to be seen whether the defensive-minded coach can revive the struggling 49ers offense.
The newly-appointed coach did not elaborate heavily on his offensive philosophy, though proponents of smash mouth football like the 49ers have employed in recent years should be appeased by Tomsula’s play calling, as he expects to bring the physicality of defense onto the other side of the ball:
“I’m a big fan of running and however that needs to get done. Really, we all talk about vertical pass, but it is pretty when you see two guys get together and knock that guy off the ball and the D-linemen knock the guy back into the guy. That is pretty too.”
Tomsula was quick to shy away from being pinpointed as a strictly defensive coach. During his nine-year stint in NFL Europa, Tomsula enjoyed one season as the head coach of the Rhein Fire, a position he said gave him experience running an offense.
However, the 49ers did not hire Tomsula for his offensive philosophy. Instead, that duty will most likely fall heavily into the hands of whoever occupies the vacant position of offensive coordinator, following Greg Roman’s departure to the Buffalo Bills.
After clearing house of all assistants besides running backs coach Tom Rathman and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, Tomsula’s job of returning the 49ers to playoff contention has gotten exceedingly larger, as both he and Baalke now look to assemble a revamped staff around the new hire.
Baalke, who initially billed the 49ers offseason plans as a “reload” rather than a “rebuild” was quick to alleviate some pressure off of his new coach’s shoulders, stating that the season’s results would not lie squarely on Tomsula’s shoulders:
“When you hire a head coach, you’re hiring one man. One man can’t do this job. And I think Jim recognizes that, as we all do. It’s going to take the village and it’s going to take a number of quality coaches to fill those roles. We’re in that process right now.”
As of Thursday night, Ian Rapoport of NFL network reported that Chris Foerster will sign on to Tomsula’s staff to serve as the offensive line coach. CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco also reported Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will join the staff in some capacity as well.
Many questions remain in the Jim Tomsula experiment, some of which are worthy enough to unsettle even the most devout 49ers fans. But the hire marks something that the 49ers have not seen for years — harmony between the front office and the coaching staff. Whether that stops the “leaks” and leads to wins, we’ll just have to wait and see.