The San Francisco 49ers introduced Jim Tomsula as their new head coach on Thursday, and his introduction was followed by an extensive Q&A session. At one point, general manager Trent Baalke was asked about the future of defensive lineman Justin Smith. The 49ers have numerous questions about impending free agents, but the potential retirement of Smith is high on the list of issues to resolve. Baalke said he would wait a few weeks to talk with Smith about his potential retirement plans.
There have been reports that Smith is likely to hang up the cleats after 14 seasons in the league, though many think he would return to the 49ers in the right situation. That situation might entail the right coach being in charge, and Smith has been more than complimentary of new 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula in the past.
When Tomsula was named interim coach back when Mike Singletary was fired, Smith offered up plenty of phrase. He said, at the time, that the 49ers chose the right guy. "I get to see a guy I know in 10 years I'll be watching on TV when I'm at home. Talk to your buddies or your kids and be like, 'You know, he was my d-line coach,'" Smith said at the time.
Smith also once told reporters that Tomsula was the best coach he'd had in 14 years of playing in the league, according to Peter Schrager of FOX Sports. That's high praise, and it could be the key to Smith returning.
Then again, there's a lot of talk about the 49ers potentially switching to a 4-3 defense under the new defensive coordinator. That does throw a wrench in things to an extent. Smith is an excellent 3-4 defensive end, and I think he has plenty enough left in the tank to play what the 49ers would ask of him in a 4-3 alignment, but whether or not he actually wants to come back and do that is another thing entirely.
This could go a number of ways. I think there's one thing that's definitely going positively for Smith's potential return and one thing that's a big negative. It's anybody's guess, but I'm interested in hearing what you guys think of this, provided you can stop panicking and trying to burn down the website with said panic. We'll make it through this -- I promise.