Late last night, MMQB posted a profile on Jim Tomsula. It’s a total puff piece, but it’s an interesting puff piece, describing Tomsula’s self-described “homeless period” and the way he lives and interacts with people (including a look at what sounds like a very nice charity event) when he’s back home in Pennsylvania. It’s a story that sets out to paint Tomsula as a lovable football lifer, a man who considers just about everyone in his path to be his family.
Then Jed York made an entrance about halfway through this feature. York may have said several positive things about Tomsula without comparing him to any other coach in the region, past or present. But the author, Emily Kaplan, understandably included this bit of nonsense in her story.
“Culture is huge. That’s the difference between a championship-caliber team and a championship team,” York says. “You look at the Golden State Warriors. They were the dumbest team in the NBA for letting Mark Jackson go, who won the most games in the franchise’s history. How could you be so dumb? They bring in Steve Kerr, who has been around the game for a long period of time but has never coached before. Kerr changes the culture, comes in with a different perspective, and look what happens.”
Let’s ignore the culture line, even though it’s one of the more tedious examples of corporate buzzword B.S., as if everyone felt like killing themselves when Jim Harbaugh was around and now they’re skipping through the hallways while scattering rose petals.
— As Tim Kawakami points out, “It’s at least nice for York to FINALLY sort of acknowledge that he did indeed fire Harbaugh, which he and Trent Baalke refused to admit for weeks.”
— York is piggybacking off the Warriors’ recent championship, which is a terrible look for any owner until you win one yourself.
— Mark Jackson didn’t come close to winning the most games in franchise history. He won 121 over three seasons. Al Attles won 557 games over 14 seasons. Don Nelson was in Golden State for 11 seasons and racked up 422 victories. Even if we’re looking at the first three seasons of Jackson’s tenure, Attles’ 139 wins from 1970-71 to 1972-73 beats him there as well.
— Steve Kerr was a five-time champion as a player, then he served as a broadcaster and general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Kerr was a hot coaching commodity when the Warriors lured him away from the Knicks with a five-year deal (the Knicks would only go as high as four years, and begrudgingly at that). No one else was competing for the services of Tomsula, who was a college coach before bouncing around NFL Europe and finally landing with the 49ers as a defensive line coach.
— Kerr stepped into a situation that — other than the coaching staff reboot — was the picture of continuity. This was the exact same Warriors team as the year before, plus two new reserve guards and a newly healthy backup center. As Ann Killion noted, Kerr’s entrance was much more similar to Harbaugh’s in 2011, at least from a personnel standpoint.
Since the 49ers hired Tomsula, the team’s mass exodus has been the talk of the NFL — Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Mike Iupati, Chris Borland, Stevie Johnson, Chris Culliver, Dan Skuta, Perrish Cox, Michael Crabtree, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Anthony Davis. That’s their leading rusher, two of their top-three leading receivers, three of their top-five leading tacklers, three of their top-five leading sackers, two starting offensive lineman and three players who’ll get some consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And while leadership is more difficult to quantify, one could argue that the heart (Gore), soul (Willis) and toughness (Smith) of the team walked out the door.
But this isn’t as much a comparison of Tomsula the man, or Tomsula the coach, to Kerr’s qualities in either capacity. This is about York, as it’s always been. He’s the one who jettisoned Harbaugh because the “culture” wasn’t a fit (translation: Harbaugh’s presence in Santa Clara was no longer tolerable for the guy signing the checks). This is York telling the world, “You’ll see. Just like Joe Lacob went out on a limb and fired a popular coach who couldn’t construct a dominant offense, I crept out to the outer edge of that very same tree and fired a popular coach who couldn’t construct a dominant offense.”
“That’s our only goal. We don’t raise division championships banners. We don’t raise NFC Championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners. And whenever we don’t deliver that, I hope that you will hold me directly responsible and accountable for it.” — Jed York, 12/29/14
Kerr didn’t just surpass Jackson’s total of 51 wins in 2013-14 and a playoff berth, he and the Warriors went and won the whole danged thing. When next season starts, the Warriors will raise a banner that says NBA Champions.
One could look at last year’s 8-8 record and say Tomsula will have succeeded if the 49ers finish 9-7 or better. But that wouldn’t be fair to York, because this team doesn’t raise division championship banners. They raise Super Bowl banners. That was always the goal, and if he’s going to compare this hire to Lacob and Co. replacing Jackson with Kerr, Tomsula and this new, “reloaded” version of the 49ers better earn York’s first Super Bowl banner at Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016.