49ers introduce coach Jim Tomsula: ‘I’m not Jim Harbaugh’
Jim Tomsula wiped down his glasses then winked at his family across the room as he waited his turn to speak on the podium, unfamiliar territory and formality for a humble defensive line coach thrust into the top job for the San Francisco 49ers.
Tomsula realizes full well the successful Jim he is following to lead this proud franchise, and the demands to get this team back on top in short order.
Back to the Super Bowl, to win it this time.
”I’m not Jim Harbaugh. Jim Harbaugh’s not Jim Tomsula,” the 46-year-old Tomsula said Thursday, when he was formally introduced as Harbaugh’s successor. ”I’m not trying to be that guy. That’s absolutely no disrespect to him. I am comfortable with who I am.”
Promoted to the head job on a four-year deal despite never being an NFL coordinator, Tomsula is ready to make the leap just as he is – colorful, enthusiastic, humble and unpolished.
The journeyman coach, with 2-1/2 decades of coaching experience at various levels, emerged as the surprising choice of CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke following an exhaustive search that included names such as Rex Ryan, Mike Shanahan and hot commodity Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
”I don’t believe I do anybody any good trying to justify anything,” Tomsula said. ”I’m not going to do that.”
He is already working to build his coaching staff, with running backs coach Tom Rathman the only expected holdover from Harbaugh’s group. Baalke met with many of the others early Thursday to find ”closure” in face-to-face meetings.
When the 49ers parted ways with Harbaugh on Dec. 28, York said afterward he wanted to find a teacher to lead the team forward and someone who would return the 49ers to winning with class in the wake of a rash of off-the-field incidents and arrests in recent years.
”There’s a way you carry yourself,” Tomsula said. ”The second step winning with class is how you conduct yourself.”
Tomsula insists it starts with doing all of the little things to take responsibility for your own actions, and he said he presented a ”proactive approach” to York and Baalke during the interview process. He considers part of the solution for players ”with so much so fast, being able to handle it, being able to channel it.”
”He is a tremendous coach, as well as a great guy, and I know he’s going to help us win,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. ”I can’t wait to get the playbook in my hands.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be getting Kaepernick and the offense back on track after a disappointing 8-8 season and the first missed playoffs in four years. Kaepernick is working out under the guidance of Kurt Warner and quarterback coaches in Phoenix this winter.
Baalke made clear they would all work together to build the best supporting cast around Tomsula.
”One thing I’m confident in, we’re going to do this together, and we’re going to do it together from Day 1 on,” Baalke said.
Baalke pointed to the fact each time the 49ers interviewed candidates – many with ample credentials – he and York kept coming back to Tomsula as the one who could check off every box they wanted checked.
At one point, Baalke stepped in to help Tomsula make a point about coaching the offense.
”Somewhere in there, he said, `We’re going to run the ball,”’ Baalke said.
Tomsula has been a winning coach in NFL Europe and always wanted more. The real NFL back home, where he once lived in his car trying to make ends meet as a low-level assistant at his alma mater, Catawba College in North Carolina.
”There’s always an asterisk in front of NFL Europe, there’s always an asterisk there,” he said. ”It’s awesome. I can’t deny that fact. It’s wonderful. There’s also a strong sense of responsibility. I get it, I do, I get the decision. I get everything that goes along with it, too. It’s an honor. You get somebody to step up for you like that, step out there, and show you belief, you want to do good for them.”