No new NFL head coach has been as heavily criticized as Jim Tomsula, the new top dog in the San Francisco 49ers organization. Much of this criticism is well-deserved, or at least has solid backing behind it. But just because Tomsula is inexperienced does not mean he will be a failure, as Emily Kaplan of The MMQB explains in an excellent article with tons of insight into Tomsula, his family, and his history.
Tomsula did not win himself any favors with the media in his atrocious opening press conference and subsequent interview with CNS Bay Area. For anyone who knew Tomsula, however, that should not have been a surprise. Tomsula has never been a fan of talking to the media. He has never liked attention. As Kaplan writes, “If [Tomsula] had his way, this would be the norm. No fame, no media attention, no conjecturing about who he is or what his team will be.”
If you thought Jim Harbaugh and his khakis didn’t interact well with the media, well, Tomsula and his tracksuit definitely makes him sound (and look) a lot better. There are a lot of things about life that Tomsula is not very well trained in. One is understanding the media. As he says:
“I don’t care about perception. I care about reality. I try not to read what’s out there, but sometimes I do and just laugh. I mean, some of the reports out there couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the exact opposite of the reality that I’m dealing with. The exact opposite! Seriously, the exact opposite!”
Another is dealing with money. Kaplan explains how Tomsula left multiple jobs, his first after college being a medical salesman with a six-figure income, to pursue his dream: coaching. (No, he did not abandon his family. In perhaps the greatest gesture of love possible, his wife continually pushed him to do what he loved, despite the financial burden taking low or no pay coaching jobs had on the family.) When he finally made it to San Francisco in 2007, he asked then-head coach Mike Nolan “I don’t know anything about money. Can I live with my family in California and provide for them with that salary?” Nolan generously him a $10,000 raise on the spot, though his initial salary would have been more than enough, too.
For a while, Tomsula famously lived out of a red Cadillac that his Uncle Tic gave him with only a dog and a cat for company. While sleeping in parking lots, brushing his teeth in the locker room, and hanging suits above the litter box, Tomsula made ends meet as an unpaid assistant at his Catawba College, his alma mater.
Eventually Tomsula landed a gig coaching in NFL Europe. Starting off as an assistant, he found himself the head coach of the Rhein Fire in 2006 before coming to San Francisco as Mike Nolan‘s defensive line coach, a position he held until January of this year.
Throughout his time as an unpaid assistant, defensive line coach, and defensive coordinator/head coach (in NFL Europe), one thing has remained consistent: his players absolutely love him. Not only on the defensive side, but offensive players and, really, people everywhere have always raved about how Tomsula is such a nice guy, how well he motivates people, and how well he knows his X’s and O’s.
But will this be enough to bring the 49ers a sixth Lombardi Trophy?
Tomsula is already doing his best to change the culture at 49ers headquarters. He moved his office to the first floor to be closer to the players so he can interact with them more often, especially when official interactions are limited during the offseason. Everyone, from management to newcomer Reggie Bush has expressed excitement about the culture he is cultivating and the energy he gives off.
Will it be enough to win, however? There will always be critics, and the odds, in all honesty, are probably stacked heavily against Jim Tomsula. That hasn’t stopped him before. Will it be enough this time?
Only time will tell.
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