San Francisco 49ers: An Autopsy of the 2015 NFL Season
By Peter Panacy
Dec 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers chief executive officer Jed York (left) shakes hands with head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Tumult Within the Coaching Staff
An easy finger can be pointed to the “mutual” parting of ways with former head coach Jim Harbaugh at the conclusion of the 2014 season. It’s no secret Harbaugh and the front office butted heads on more than one occasion. And it’s also reasonable to assume CEO Jed York and Co. wanted someone more submissive to helm San Francisco’s on-field efforts.
But the Harbaugh/front-office rift goes deeper than just a clash of egos.
Remember last season when half the team would use the practice facility’s locker room during games? And remember offensive guard Alex Boone’s comments about the former head coach?
Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone (75) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In case you didn’t.
“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” Boone said, via NBC Sports. “But after a while, you just want to kick his ass. … He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.’ He kind of wore out his welcome.
“I think he just pushed guys too far. He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much. You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this.’ And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane. He’s crazy.’ … I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.'”
Cracks were beginning to show, and the 8-8 2014 finish suggested that.
But the 49ers front office didn’t help. Rather than finding some sort of plausible solution, including the desire to retain a successful head coach, York and Baalke elected to move on from Harbaugh.
Did the 49ers hire a proven head coach or a promising coordinator to fill the ranks? No. The selection was an in-house candidate: former defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
We’ll get to the current situation with San Francisco’s coaching staff in a bit, but the entire search procedure marks even more of a disconnect.
One specific example is the near-hiring of current Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. NFL.com’s Marc Sessler broke down what happened here:
"NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported Monday that the former Broncos — and current Bears — play-caller likely would have landed the Niners job if he agreed to hire Jim Tomsula as his defensive coordinator, according to a source apprised of the situation. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News was told a similar story by an NFL source who said that Gase “turned that suggestion down flat.” Breer was told that Gase’s pitch to 49ers’ brass was to either keep Vic Fangio in place as defensive coordinator or hire away Bengals assistant Vance Joseph from Cincinnati. Fangio might have left San Francisco anyway — and the Bengals blocked Joseph from seeking other jobs — but Gase was not about to be told who his coordinators would be. When talks with Gase broke down, the 49ers quickly hired Tomsula, who turned around and named Eric Mangini his defensive play-caller before promoting quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst to offensive coordinator. Neither were hot names this offseason."
Sounds like the 49ers front office wanted more control than what Gase would have been comfortable with.
Not exactly a solid solution to a pressing problem.
Next: Players Depart En Masse