Jim Tomsula did a nice job with the 49ers’ defensive linemen before Jim Harbaugh arrived. Maybe when Harbaugh met Tomsula for the first time, he sized him up and decided Tomsula would be a trusted agent if kept around, so he added him to his staff to continue in the same role.
It’s pretty clear now that Harbaugh doesn’t think much of Tomsula any more. Nor should he.
Tim Kawakami put out the first episode of his new podcast, and damn. That was a tremendous half hour. I think I’m a lot like most people around here in that I’m significantly more interested in Michigan football now than I was a couple months ago … however, I remain far, far more concerned with the inner workings of the 49ers. And after listening to the middle section of Kawakami’s podcast with Harbaugh (a ridiculously good get), it’s clear that Harbaugh absolutely feels like he was fired by Jed York (this isn’t breaking news, but it’s worth a listen just to hear his tone).
I don’t want to steal from TK here, as I consider him a friend and he deserves all the page views and listens he can get from this intriguing first episode he put together, with Harbaugh’s help. So here’s the audio, and here’s the transcript.
(So much for the idea espoused by certain 49ers fans that Kawakami had some sort of vendetta against Harbaugh, or his questions were rude or too prying. Now those fans will probably continue to focus on defending York and the 49ers logo from logical attacks for how they handled the Harbaugh-to-Tomsula transition. I know a lot about those attacks these days — not as much as TK, to be sure, but some fans are like kids who don’t want to believe that it was their parents who put those presents under the tree. Sorry kids, Harbaugh may have willingly took the Michigan job, but he was a goner as far as York was concerned before the 2014 season started.)
The money quote from Harbaugh: “I didn’t leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49er hierarchy left me.”
Harbaugh also let it be known that he has a “pretty good understanding of some of the things that took place” as far as leaks were concerned. In other words, he thinks it was a York-led operation.
Again, we knew all that. I’d like to focus on Tomsula.
Oh, Tomsula. Many are going to question Harbaugh’s story, and say he’s manipulating things to curry favor with 49ers fans in an attempt to stick it to York, Trent Baalke, Tomsula and whoever else he feels buried him. Perhaps that’s partly true. He’s a skilled communicator and just about anyone who gets fired will carry some bitterness for years, if not forever.
But I’m starting to seriously question the image of Tomsula as this bumbling, football-lifer teddy bear. Not that I think he faked his struggles with the media on the day of his press conference and infamous interview with Jim Kozimor — he was out of his element that day — but it sure sounds like Harbaugh thinks he’s a Grade-A (not A++, mind you) phony.
-Q: What was your relationship like with Jim Tomsula at the end? Did you feel like he was at all campaigning for your job while you still had it?
-HARBAUGH: Yeah, that’s a good question for him. Better than to me.
-Q: Was it awkward? His name was certainly out there as a possible potential replacement.
-HARBAUGH: Uhh, there was definitely a point where you walk down the halls and you… I wasn’t reading anything that was on the Internet, I was really focused on doing my job… but definitely walk down the halls and people look away or they look at you and you know something’s going on.
That’s really about the extent of the knowledge that I have on it.
-Q: That can’t be a comfortable situation to work in.
-HARBAUGH: Better questions for others.
Football, like any big business, is vicious.
Even with a salary in the bottom five of NFL head coaches, Tomsula just earned a MASSIVE raise for himself and his family. No one else was going to provide that raise. Tomsula wasn’t a former star quarterback who starred in TV commercials. His only path to the top came via the way he handled his 49ers tenure: he bided his time, and he was there. We’ll never know how “there” he was. Was he feeding information to York about Harbaugh’s struggles with certain players, coaches or game situations? Was he simply a guy who knew how to feed York’s ego (and/or Baalke’s)?
It’s amazing that Harbaugh would keep such a person on his staff the whole way through, knowing that Tomsula was rumored to be the top choice as his eventual replacement. Mark Jackson sure wouldn’t have kept Tomsula on his staff.
Anyway, go ahead and check out the podcast if you haven’t already. Even the Michigan stuff is entertaining, as well as the second attempt at a conclusion, when the Harbaughs called TK back and Sarah Harbaugh got on the line and said a quick hello/goodbye. Apparently the family was driving down to Monterey to check out some golf, and they sounded happy and carefree. Jim got his dream job, and they don’t feel the least bit bad about how they handled themselves throughout his 49ers tenure. It doesn’t hurt that Jim came out of this situation smelling like a rose. And now, the fans and players are left with York and Tomsula, two men who appear to have worked together to oust Harbaugh for months. All of the other leaks and rumors about Harbaugh came true — how else would certain reporters know for months that Tomsula was the favorite to replace Harbaugh?
Here’s what Tomsula said during his introductory press conference in response to a few pointed questions about Harbaugh. First, he evaded a question about why Harbaugh kept him on staff.
In 2011, when former head coach Jim Harbaugh was hired and the team took the leap forward, you were one of the few pieces of continuity there, what was the reason?
JT: “I’ll tell you the truth, the laugh that I had with it. I don’t have a pinpoint answer for that but the laugh I had with it was, all the guys, we were off. It was a lockout, so we were off. So, coaches couldn’t interact with players. So our players were getting together themselves. [It was] ownership, ownership from the players. They were getting together themselves and they were working out and they were over at San Jose State and they were I’m not sure where else. They were running some mountains and hills over there and they were doing it together. And I think there’s a couple reasons there. I think there was a bonding thing that kind of happened. It was like time away, time together. And they were doing it. And they had to do it. Just that group of guys together that were spearheading that and then the way you guys kept growing it. Every week more people would come. It morphed. They were really working hard and driving each other and having fun doing it. And when we came into training camp that year, you had a crew of guys, yeah, there were some X’s and O’s and playbook stuff we had to learn. Couldn’t learn that much. Couldn’t install the encyclopedia. But what was installed was nice and tight. The guys were so excited and the coaches there did a great job. A great job of getting it done and getting things installed. I think all that together, they had to do it. It was players, coaches, the schematics, but the overlying factor to me was the way those guys handled it. There were other teams during the lockout. Nobody saw each other. They were all wherever they were all over the country. They were all fired up when they got back from the lockout high-fiving, ‘Hey, how you doing?’, ‘You grew a beard?’. Our guys didn’t do that. We had a really large, good core of guys that stuck together for that.”
And Kawakami had this exchange with Tomsula about the rumors that he’d take Harbaugh’s place:
I assumed you didn’t miss throughout the season the reports that Jim Harbaugh was on his way out, that he had lost the locker room and also reports that you were in line maybe to be the next coach. What did you think about those reports? Do you think they destabilized the team and this season and what did that do to your relationship with Jim Harbaugh and maybe with Vic Fangio?
JT: “I don’t think that had any effect on my relationship with either one of those guys. I don’t think there was an effect on it. Nobody can control what people write or speculate or do.”
Did you think they were bad?
JT: “I thought it was terrible. But, I mean what are you going to do. How do you stop it.
It turned out to all be true.
JT: “I don’t know. I didn’t read them all.”
You’re sitting up there.
JT: “Yeah, I’m sitting here, but I didn’t read them. I don’t know all the dynamics of all those things. I wasn’t a part of that so I can’t [speak to it].”
When your name was mentioned, what were you thinking?
JT: “That was just terribly uncomfortable, obviously. It was terribly uncomfortable. I wish whoever wrote it wouldn’t have wrote it or whoever said it wouldn’t have said it. I can’t sit up here and tell you. What am I going to do about it? There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Have you talked to Harbaugh recently?
JT: “No I haven’t. I have not.”