Here is a link to my Tuesday column about Jim Tomsula. The full text runs below:
I hear this stuff from veterans in sports media, people who should know better:
“I feel so sorry for Jim Tomsula. He got a raw deal. All those players left. He’s in a no-win situation.”
“I feel so sorry for Jim Tomsula. Management gave him a bad team. What’s he supposed to do? Jim Harbaugh couldn’t do better with this group.”
“I feel so sorry for Jim Tomsula. With that roster it’s impossible to tell if he’s a good coach. The jury’s still out on him.”
Never have I heard so much raw pity directed at a big-league head coach. At this very moment, I myself have whipped out my handkerchief and I’m crying my eyes out for poor Tomsula even though he earns $3.5 million a year.
Dear Reader, have a heart. Weep for Jimmy T. And whatever you do, don’t blame him for the 49ers’ 3-6 record, for them being in last place, for him being a really bad coach who has no business being a head coach, who pushed for running the 49ers and is currently getting what he deserves.
How can you blame a nice guy like him? Just cry.
If you’re honest with yourself you’ll admit the appropriate response to Tomsula is not admiration or fear or even respect. The normal stuff you might feel for an NFL head coach. Forget all that. The appropriate response is sympathy. Heartbreaking sympathy.
The world mourns for Tomsula.
It’s just that the man survived three head coaches. This is extraordinary and means Tomsula is a football phenomenon. Here’s the official roll call. He survived Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and Jim Harbaugh. Well, he didn’t survive Harbaugh’s fall. He benefited. In the NFL, most assistant coaches get fired when a new head coach brings in his own staff. It’s how the league works. How does Tomsula always survive? Who does he know?
It gives the impression Tomsula may be the ultimate politician, a brilliant strategist — off the field. But that’s not possible, right? He’s so simple. Can’t connect a subject with a verb when he speaks. Has anyone ever been this inarticulate?
An example. Tomsula at his Monday news conference.
Q: What can you pinpoint as far as what’s different about your team on the road this year as opposed to the way it’s played at home? (Note: The 49ers are winless on the road.)
Tomsula: “You know, that is something that we talked about this week and you know, we started talking about when we leave, you know, you talk about all the different things. But, we just haven’t, whether it’s been, and I don’t put it on crowd noise, I don’t put it on those things, but just coming out rolling, just go. And that’s our focus this week. Just, let’s go. We’re leaving on Saturday. Let’s just full-steam ahead. We don’t need to sit back and pause and this and that. Let’s just go. Let’s start this week and take it all the way through the game.”
To call this stuff gibberish would overrate it. Tomsula wasn’t merely babbling. He was raving.
Here’s the crazy thing. Tomsula’s raving helps him. Works to his advantage. You listen to him mangling the mother tongue and you feel sorry for him. Yes, sympathy yet again. It’s unfair to follow up with a tough question with this man. He’s doing the best he can and he’s so darn humble. “Oh, he tried to answer. He didn’t evade. It’s just that he babbles.”
And while we’re laying it on thick, don’t forget he worked himself up from the bottom, lived in his car when he coached in college. An all-time great sob story.
His inarticulateness is attractive in a weird way. Makes him seem real. He speaks from the heart. No pretense. No premeditation. His inarticulateness says he’s an earnest person. Asks us to trust him. Says we can believe him. He’s one of us.
He’s at his most inarticulate when he answers a tough question. Funny how that works. Look at this:
Q: With Blaine Gabbert, I know you said it’s a one-week thing, you only made a commitment for him starting. So, is this something that you’re prepared now just every week to have that same conversation with the quarterbacks and let them know who’s going to be the quarterback for the following game?
Tomsula: “Yeah. Well, yes. I mean, yes and no. I want to move forward with Blaine and we’ll go from there.”
Say what? I’m trying to decipher this. The question was clear enough: Is Tomsula going to tell the quarterbacks each week who’s starting? I got that.
In his answer, Tomsula said yes, he’s going to have that conversation each week. Then he said, yes and no about the conversation each week. Then he said he’s moving forward with Gabbert. Well, that sure cleared things up. Inarticulate to the max.
I’m saying Tomsula did a great job for his purposes. He avoided the question using the Inarticulateness Defense as only he can do. I had the feeling the 49ers public-relations staff coached him on his multiple evasions. Twice he glanced at the PR director to see how he was doing. Can you imagine Harbaugh looking to a PR guy for approval or guidance?
Tomsula knows how to evade like a champ, knows how to get people on his side like nobody’s business, knows how to stay employed in a dysfunctional organization. Those are his primary skills. He is either dumb like a fox or just plain dumb. I have no idea.
But maybe I’m being unkind to the man of the people. Here are the real questions, the important ones. Wouldn’t you like to have a beer with Tomsula and talk football and shoot the breeze about life like two old friends? Isn’t he just awesome?
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.