49ers’ new coach urges unity in introduction
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Tomsula stepped forward as 49ers coach Thursday and urged unity for the embattled franchise.
“I believe it takes a village, that no one man does anything by himself, the strength is in the people around them and the way people come together,” Tomsula said at his hour-long, introductory news conference.
Tomsula was promoted Wednesday after eight seasons as the defensive line coach, receiving a four-year contract, according to the Sacramento Bee. He replaces Jim Harbaugh, who exited immediately after finishing this season with an 8-8 record and a Dec. 28 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
“He really identified himself and sold himself on what he would do to bring this organization together and lead us to a lot of success on the field and off the field,” general manager Trent Baalke said of Tomsula.
Added Tomsula: “I clearly understand the expectations of the ownership, on and off the field.”
The ultimate expectation is winning the franchise’s sixth Lombardi Trophy, preferably next season when the Super Bowl comes to the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium.
“This franchise has quite a few (championships). Yeah, I’ve got it. Tough act to follow,” Tomsula said. “I fully understand that. Anything short of that, we didn’t achieve what we were expected to achieve.”
CEO Jed York has stressed since Harbaugh’s exit that the 49ers needed a coach who’ll win with class. Asked what that means to him, Tomsula said: “The difference between confidence and arrogance is ignorance. There’s fine line from crossing from confidence to arrogance.”
Rather than insinuate that the 49ers’ 2014 fall was all Harbaugh’s fault, general manager Trent Baalke stressed that everyone needed to take accountability and that it started with him, prompting York to chime in that it actually started with his ownership.
Tomsula recognized that the 49ers’ fan base might not embrace his promotion, not after the franchise reversed course under Harbaugh’s four-year reign.
“Jim Harbaugh was here and we won a lot of games. No debate. I get that,” Tomsula said. “For whatever reason, the job was open and I interviewed. In terms of the fan base, and maybe you can tell me I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t do anybody good trying to justify anything.
Tomsula added that he had nothing bad to say about the past four years, although he would have preferred a better 2014.
“I’m not Jim Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh is not Jim Tomsula. No disrespect to him. I’m very comfortable with who I am, and I’m committed in what I believe.”
Tomsula was the 49ers’ interim coach when they also ended the 2010 season by beating the Cardinals. His only other head-coaching role came in the now-defunct NFL Europe, with the 2006 Rhein Fire. Tomsula said he’s tired of an “asterisk” being placed next to his NFL Europe stint, because he learned so much about daily interactions with players and how to delegate duties.
Although he has ideal candidates in mind, Tomsula wouldn’t reveal who he is eyeing as the 49ers’ new coordinators, nor would he comment on who’s left or who’s arriving on staff. Baalke said he’s helping formulate “our staff” but ultimately Tomsula would decide its makeup.
Baalke repeatedly used the word “competent” to describe a staff he envisioned downsizing a couple assistants, to a total 17 or 18, Tomsula sounded like he preferred even fewer, that he likes a “streamlined” operation, and that he’s been busy talking to candidates.
Greg Roman has left to become the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator, and Vic Fangio was released from his contract Wednesday night as defensive coordinator, along with secondary coach Ed Donatell, linebackers coach Jim Leavitt and several other assistants.
Since arriving with Harbaugh in 2011, Fangio has had autonomy over a defense that’s perennially ranked in the top five in yards allowed and top 10 in scoring. CEO Jed York declined to comment on why Fangio or any other candidates were passed over in favor of Tomsula, whose familiarity was not the only factor in his hiring, York added.
Tomsula was interviewed twice before York informed him Wednesday morning he was their choice as the 19th coach in franchise history. At least eight other candidates were interviewed during the 17-day search.
“It was always honest,” Tomsula said. “I can’t say there was a lot of communication. There were meetings and I knew they were on the road. I didn’t ask where and they didn’t tell me where.”
With all wearing red ties and suits, Tomsula sat between Baalke and York at a table inside Levi’s Stadium’s auditorium with nearly 100 media present. Afterward, Tomsula held court with about 20 reporters who regularly cover the team, and that session took place in the coaches’ lounge next to their locker room, where he said his locker won’t be moving just because his title changed.
That coaches locker room is inside the stadium and near the players’ locker room, which will be the only one used going forward, unlike this past season where nearly half the players stayed in the old locker room in the adjacent building.
Among those expected to be retained on staff are quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, running backs coach Tom Rathman and offensive assistants Mick Lombardi and Ejiro Evero.
Expected additions to the staff include two former assistants: Jason Tarver and Chris Foerster. Tarver was the Raiders defensive coordinator from 2012-14 and a 49ers assistant from 2001-10. Foerster coached the 49ers offensive line in 2008-09 before assuming that role the past five seasons as Washington’s offensive line coach.
Tomsula was originally hired to the 49ers in 2005 by then-coach Mike Nolan. Signing numerous extensions since then has allowed Tomsula and his wife Julie to stay in San Jose, while their two daughters both attended Valley Christian High School. It’s a far cry from the family’s nomadic days in NFL Europe, where Tomsula remembered players quizzing his daughters with math equations while in elevators.
While Tomsula opened his news conference by describing his path as “unique,” he later downplayed how he and his wife lived out of his car at the start of his coaching career, fondly recalling those six months in North Carolina.
“I’ve had an incredible life,” Tomsula said. “Here’s another thing.”