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It’s been a busy 48 hours in the NFL head coaching carousel. Todd Bowles was named the Jets’ next coach and Jack Del Rio moved over from Denver to Oakland. Now it’s being reported the San Francisco 49ers have promoted longtime assistant Jim Tomsula to head coach.
Tomsula replaced Jim Harbaugh, who mutually parted ways with the team to take over at his alma mater, Michigan. Tomsula has been a longtime member of the 49ers’ coaching staff and was a constant name in the candidate pool dating back to when Harbaugh was still the team’s head coach.
Tomsula is now the fourth NFL head coaching hire to be made. Here are six things to know about the next 49ers head coach:
1. Hired without an interview
Tomsula didn’t even need an interview to earn his promotion. According to NFL Media, the team “already knew what they had” with the longtime 49ers assistant coach.
Tomsula edged out Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase for the position. Gase immediately soared to the forefront of the 49ers’ wish list once it was known there was a shakeup coming in Denver.
Still, the team chose familiarity over the hot candidate, as well as eight other candidates known to have interviewed for the gig, which included Mike Shanahan and Dan Quinn, among others.
2. Stalwart in San Francisco
For eight years Tomsula has been coaching in San Francisco as a defensive line specialist, however, he has never been an NFL coordinator let alone a full-time head coach.
Asked about Tomsula’s new role of being the head coach, former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said Tomsula wouldn’t cater to just offense, defense or special teams, but be an overall team manager. Mariucci told the San Jose Mercury News: “He would manage the team. He wouldn’t run the offense, defense or special teams. He’d run the team and be the face and the pulse of the team.”
It’s an unusual course of action, but one that 49ers management clearly had no issue going down.
3. Front office looking for the anti-Harbaugh?
There was reported tension between the front office — particularly general manager Trent Baalke — and Harbaugh. Those clashes made Tomsula all the more attractive as the team’s next head man.
Tomsula, like Harbaugh, is energetic and tenacious, and that upbeat persona is exactly what owner Jed York liked about Harbaugh. However, Tomsula has been such a tenured coach on the 49ers’ coaching staff that the members of the front office knew they’d be able to use their leverage over him with ease. That’s something Harbaugh simply would not relent to.
4. Tomsula’s resume
Tomsula spent eight seasons as the Niners’ defensive line coach. He previously served as the team’s interim head coach in its 2010 season finale, which resulted in a 38-7 rout of the Arizona Cardinals. So, he is perfect as an NFL head coach.
Previously, Tomsula spent time at the helm of NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire in 2006.
In his eight-year stint as the team’s defensive line coach, the 49ers’ pass rush and run defense have been among the best in the league. In the previous seven years, the defense has limited opponents to 3.68 yards per rush, the second-best mark in the NFL in that time. The San Francisco defense ranked fifth in 2007, eighth in 2008, third in 2009, second in 2010, first in 2011, third in 2012, and ninth in 2013.
In 2011 the team set an NFL record by not allowing a single rushing touchdown through its first 14 games, and finished the year by allowing just three, the fewest allowed by a team since the league moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
In 2014, the Niners ranked fifth in defense DVOA, 10th against the run, and fourth against the pass.
5. Tomsula exhibits same traits as … Bill Walsh?
Tomsula never coached under 49ers legend in Bill Walsh, who of course led the team during its most prominent era when Joe Montana and Steve Young were quarterbacking the team. He did, though, draw a comparison to Walsh.
When York was asked about finding a coach that could pick up where Harbaugh left off — which includes taking over a team that went eight years without a winning record or a playoff berth — York said the following:
”I think what made Bill Walsh so successful was that he was a great teacher, whether that was players or whether that was other coaches … And you look at his successful coaching tree. I think if you look in the 49ers Hall of Fame down the road, I want to say as of 2012 or 2013, 29 of the 32 coaches in the NFL had either a direct or indirect relationship with Bill. That’s what made this organization so successful.”
Well, York has praised Tomsula for being an excellent teacher, and though he didn’t directly mention Tomsula and Walsh in the same breath, he clearly believed in the longtime D-line coach to pick up where Harbaugh left off.
6. A hire for Kaepernick
The San Jose Mercury News suggested Tomsula would be a hire not directly aimed at continuing to mold the offense around Colin Kaepernick. Tomsula is a defensive-minded hire, meaning the team must look for a strong offensive coordinator to help continue to develop Kaepernick or consider other alternatives.
The thought of a defense-driven team means the 49ers can revert back to a run-first offense with Kaepernick as more of a game-manager as opposed to playmaker. That was the 49ers’ philosophy prior to 2014, when Harbaugh and previous offensive coordinator Greg Roman — now with Buffalo — had Kaepernick try to be more a passer, which clearly did not work out as planned.
Tomsula’s hire means the 49ers brass wants defense and defense first, and Kaepernick possibly to continue to develop. A hire like Adam Gase would have meant the hire would be all about the quarterback, while now it remains more of a question.
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