When Jim Tomsula was promoted to head coach by the 49ers in January, many fans in the Bay Area weren’t happy.
After speculation that the Niners might bring in a veteran, big-name and proven head coach to replace Jim Harbaugh, Tomsula was seen by some as a cheap and unproven alternative.
Even general manager Trent Baalke noted in Tomsula’s introductory news conference that “following in Jim Harbaugh’s footsteps isn’t easy.”
But, said Baalke, “I’m very confident that Jim is the right man for the job.”
Roughly six months later, the jury is still out on Tomsula, and it will be until the 49ers begin to play games that count in September. There’s still no way to know how he’ll prepare his team, how he’ll interact with players and his staff and whether he can motivate his team to overcome injuries and tough times.
Yet there have been some positive signs. Many of his players, through organized team activities (OTAs) and the recent full-squad minicamp, have spoken highly of Tomsula and the staff he’s built. And it’s become obvious that Tomsula will have his team play at a quicker pace in 2015 than it did under Harbaugh’s tenure.
Said safety Antoine Bethea, to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, during OTAs: “I love him. He’s charismatic. He’s one with the players. It’s going to be a good deal for us.”
Yet skeptics remain. This week, for instance, Elliot Harrison of NFL.com put together his annual list of NFL coach power rankings, and there was Tomsula ranked at No. 32 among 32 head coaches.
Yet Harrison noted part of Tomsula’s lowly status is because he’s following a big winner while also dealing with a roster that’s been impacted greatly by free agency and retirements.
“Tomsula is our caboose, mostly because he inherited the worst situation,” wrote Harrison. “It’s not like the 49ers are devoid of talent, but this has been through an offseason of turmoil. Unlike the other rookie head coaches, Tomsula is following a guy in Jim Harbaugh who manifested incredible success. It would help if players quit retiring.”
Baalke has said all along, however, that one of the reasons he believes Tomsula is the right man to follow Harbaugh is because he’s mentally tough and that he can overcome skeptics, retirements, expectations and adversity.
In a few months 49ers fans will know if Baalke’s instincts are correct.