Here is a link to my Sunday column on the 49ers. The full text runs below:
When should the 49ers fire head coach Jim Tomsula?
Two logical options present themselves.
First Logical Option: The 49ers fire Tomsula right now and replace him with someone on his staff — obviously, the 49ers can’t attract a coach from outside the organization to this lame-duck position. Or is the adjective just plain “lame?”
Second Logical Option: The 49ers wait until the end of the season to fire Tomsula along with his coordinators, Geep Chryst and Eric Mangini. That way the Niners could attract a coach from outside, an unemployed coach or a desperate coach, or if they’re outrageously lucky, an up-and-coming coach.
Let’s take these options in an orderly fashion, “orderly” being the key word, a concept that does not apply to the 49ers operation. Disclaimer: In writing about firing Tomsula, I am not absolving of blame the owner, general manager or anyone else in the organization.
The 49ers should fire Tomsula today, this minute, this second. He deserves to get fired right away. He is not an NFL head coach. He could not prepare his team for five of seven games, and his lack of preparation will become more pronounced and boring as the season drones on. Players will tune him out.
Amend that. I am sure players already have tuned him out. He has nothing to say except the usual clichés about what a great group of hardworking guys he has in that there locker room, and we don’t walk around problems, we walk straight through them, and this performance was unacceptable and it’s on me.
If the players are smart — and they are — they knew in training camp Tomsula was a shallow-water swimmer flailing in the deep end of the pool. All that talk about being a players’ coach and accommodating the players’ need for frequent breaks. Such nonsense. You would have thought Tomsula was running a sleepover camp for rich kids.
Obvious problem with firing Tomsula now — whom can the Niners get who’s better? If anyone on the staff has the stuff to be head coach, he’d already be the head coach. Chryst? You’re kidding me. Mangini? You’ve got to be joking. Neither Chryst nor Mangini has done good enough work for a promotion.
Mangini and tight ends coach Tony Sparano have been head coaches, which gives them a certain cachet. That doesn’t mean they were good head coaches. Because they weren’t. You have to wonder if Mangini or Sparano could get the 49ers to play harder and better than Tomsula, if they could get the players to care more.
Of course, outliers exist who could take over the team for the remaining nine games. Team president Paraag Marathe is said to be smart and he’s a snappy dresser. He might be just the ticket.
Trent Baalke put this team together and may have an occasional rare insight on improving its play.
And radio play-by-play guy Ted Robinson seems to have all the answers along with contempt for the daily media which falls in line with the prevailing attitude of the franchise.
And then there’s owner Jed York himself. Can you see him getting in NaVorro Bowman’s face? “Pick up the pace, NaVorro!”
It’s hard to make a case for any outliers.
Conclusion: Tomsula deserves to get fired now, but Jed has no better candidates. So, what’s the point? I rule out First Logical Option. And that brings us to Second Logical Option.
The Niners fire Tomsula at season’s end. The virtue of this strategy is continuity. The players will hear the same voice, have the same leadership — such as it is — the rest of the season as they coast through games, trying not to get hurt, thinking of their next contract. Because no interim coach will do any better, there’s no sense in firing Tomsula. Plus, an interim coach will get a salary bump and that would cost Jed dough.
And there’s something else. Jed may have a love problem. Based on his behavior with Mike Singletary, Jed has a tendency to fall in love with interim head coaches. I don’t mean real love. I mean the love someone feels for a savior, for someone to take responsibility out of your hands, for someone to make things right.
I think Jed felt something like that for Singletary. Saw him as a conqueror who would resolve Jed’s life. Here Jed had a Hall of Famer with a deep voice and a heroic presence. Singletary had done OK after the Niners fired Mike Nolan. Although Jed had all the time in the world to interview other candidates, he hired Singletary on the spot right after the final game of the 2008 season. You know how Singletary worked out.
The fear is — certainly my fear is — Jed will get one of those interim-coach crushes on Mangini or Sparano or Ted Robinson and give the guy a four-year deal. All of this means, to be on the safe side, Jed should opt for Logical Option Two and fire Tomsula after the season.
In the meantime, Jed can do two wise things. 1) Order Tomsula to wear sunglasses on the sidelines so when he stares at the sky or his shoes, no one can see the blank look in his eyes. 2) Get someone with actual football knowledge to advise him on hiring a new coach. This someone would not be Baalke. This someone would be a real football man. Mike Shanahan. Mike Holmgren. Dennis Green. John Madden. Ron Wolf. And pay this someone lots of money.
And then Jed needs to recede from the football operation. And then he needs to recede some more.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.