Tomsula firing gives 49ers fans reason for hope in 2016

January 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula walks the sideline against the St. Louis Rams at Levi
January 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula walks the sideline against the St. Louis Rams at Levi /

Jim Tomsula deserved better than this. Whatever your thoughts on the supposed behind the scenes politicking he performed to be hired as Jim Harbaugh’s replacement, there can be no doubt the story of a man who worked his way up through the ranks as a high school, small-school college and NFL Europe coach to become the head coach of the 49ers deserved a better ending than a one-and-done season.

Having said all that, when he fired Tomsula Jed York made absolutely the right decision. The Niners were a listless shell of a team in 2015 and it is a near miracle they somehow managed to get to five wins.

San Francisco’s slump can be somewhat attributed to the scarcely believable number of departures in the offseason, but there was no excuse for the dreadful offensive game planning and the conservative coaching decisions that crippled the 49ers’ chances this term.

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With Tomsula’s departure York has admitted he made a mistake and the 49ers are in the same spot they were 12 months ago, looking for a new head coach. Yet this search already has a different feel to the one of 2015, which seemed destined to end in Tomsula being hired, and York’s Monday press conference provided some reason for optimism for San Francisco fans.

York stood before the podium clearly a humbled man, his big gamble on a coach beloved by the 49ers organization was an emphatic failure and he acknowledged that, vowing to learn from the mistakes of the past year – including taking a step back on social media.

His comments on social media have proven controversial in the past but more important than his words on that issue was the confirmation general manager Trent Baalke – who keeps his job despite the overall poor performance of the players on the roster – will lead the coaching search.

“Trent’s role is to find the next head coach and continue to build this roster and get us back to championship form. Trent has the skills to do this and get this done.” – Jed York

Tomsula was long seen by many, such as Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News, as the York family’s guy. Baalke will now have the chance to bring in his guy and will do so with the support of a CEO who indicated the Niners can spend big in free agency and revealed he has been taking advice from uncle Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who presided over five Super Bowl wins during his spell as owner of the 49ers.

Listening to the wisdom of a man who is understandably still incredibly highly regarded in the Bay Area is a smart move by York and may appease those members of the fanbase who long for the return of Eddie D, while the confirmation Baalke is free to make some splashes in free agency is extremely positive for a team in need of as much top-level talent as possible.

"“We’re willing to spend what it takes to get everything right to get back to a championship culture. We’ve got a lot of salary cap room. So, you can’t just spend money to spend money. You want to make sure that you’re spending money wisely. So, we will always continue to manage the cap. Trent and his staff know that if they need to spend the entire room, they can do it. If they need to roll it over, they can do it and we will do what it takes to get back to a championship level.” – Jed York"

Of course before Baalke can think about stacking the roster with more talent he must get the coaching hire right. We know defensive coordinator Eric Mangini is not on the shortlist after Baalke, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, said there were no in-house candidates in the running.

The candidates supposedly in with a chance of the job are intriguing. San Francisco will have to part with compensation to land New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, but he has a Super Bowl win on his resume and implemented a potent and exciting offense down in Louisiana.

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is another name linked with the position and the former Oakland Raiders head coach would certainly appear to have what it takes to turn around the 49ers’ dismal offense – Cincinnati’s offense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL by Football Outsiders.

Despite the disappointing end to his stay with the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly could be trusted to install an exciting offensive gameplan and, although some will question why coaches of such caliber would join an organization that has displayed plenty of dysfunction over the past 12 months, there is plenty to attract the likes of Payton, Jackson and Kelly to San Francisco.

For all the struggles the Niners have endured, their remains talent on the roster. Carlos Hyde is an extremely promising running back, although he needs to find a way to stay healthy, and Torrey Smith can be one of the better deep threats in the league if used correctly.

The offensive line was very poor in 2015 but still boasts an elite left tackle in Joe Staley and could welcome back right tackle Anthony Davis in 2016.

Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman demonstrated he can still play at a high level in 2015 coming off a gruesome knee injury and is an excellent leader for a young and inconsistent defense, which possesses players of considerable promise in the front seven and on the back end.

Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Up front Ian Williams and Arik Armstead had strong seasons and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch continues to develop, leading the team in sacks with 6.5 in 2015. The play at cornerback was up and down but the 49ers should be delighted with the depth they have at safety as Eric Reid, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward played well for the majority of the campaign.

There are a number of substantial holes on the roster and, after Colin Kaepernick’s nightmare 2015, uncertainty reigns over the quarterback position. Yet, with the No. 7 pick in the draft and over $37million in cap space, per Over The Cap, Baalke has plenty of ammunition to work with as he looks to improve the squad for 2016.

Baalke divides opinion and the thought of him controlling the destiny of the 49ers franchise in 2016 will not sit well with many.

However, San Francisco is being linked with coaching candidates who would be considerable upgrades on Tomsula, has a high draft-pick, stacks of salary cap space and a CEO who seems ready to step back and lessen his influence over football decisions.

It sounds cliché but, even after a 5-11 season, the decision to relieve Tomsula of his duties gives 49ers fans reason to be hopeful of a turnaround in 2016. Now it is up to Baalke to ensure that hope is not unfounded.