I earnestly believe that the way people write and talk demonstrate a lot about them. Language is a weird thing that can express unintentional meaning and reveal parts of a person's brain without him realizing it. Yesterday, Jed York released this statement about the hiring of Jim Tomsula as the new head coach of the 49ers:
After conducting a thorough coaching search, and meeting with a number of outstanding candidates, Jim Tomsula clearly is the right man to lead this team. Jim is a great teacher and a tremendous mentor who conducts himself with great class and integrity.
On the surface, this is just the blasé rhetoric that we should expect from York; but, if we look closely, this statement might reveal a bit more about York's approach to this whole procedure. The statement contains a dangling modifier. The phrase "After conducting a thorough coaching search, and meeting with a number of outstanding candidates" should be attached to the subject of the sentence from a grammatically correct standpoint, but it's actually modifying the imaginary York who isn't even in this sentence. Instead, the sentence implies that it is Jim Tomsula who conducted the thorough coaching search and met with a number of candidates. As far as I know, that simply isn't true.
I don't mean to beat up on York's grammar; that's not very fair. He's a businessman, not a scholar. Additionally, I'm sure that I will make a grammar mistake at some point while writing or editing this article. These things happen. But, I think this press release serves as a good metaphor for the last few weeks. What I fear is that it serves as a good metaphor for the rest of York's tenure in that it really doesn't make York look good.
And isn't that true about the Tomsula hire? What's so frustrating for me is the fact that I like Tomsula. I think he is a great position coach. And, I think he could be a great defensive coordinator. And after that? Yeah, maybe someday he could be a great head coach. But, just like York can't see his dangling modifier, so too he cannot see how much of a joke this promotion is. Literally nobody else in the NFL interviewed Tomsula this year. That should speak volumes. The Raiders and the Jaguars exist, so I don't think it's fair to say that the 49ers are the laughingstock of the NFL, but I sure don't like the fact that we are keeping company with the Jags now.
And maybe that is an overreaction to the hire. Our very own socalisteph had a great piece on Friday presenting a nuanced view of the hire that finds some positives. I am, however, a little more pessimistic.
At the end of the day, I just don't believe that Tomsula has the adequate traits to be a successful head coach yet. He hasn't had to implement schemes at a level larger than the front seven of the defense; he hasn't had to manage an NFL staff and work in conjunction with a scouting department; he hasn't had time to develop a network of people who can step into natural roles. Remember when Jim Harbaugh was hired and we saw coaches fall into place almost immediately? That's because Harbaugh had developed a network of people with whom he could work and from whom he could develop a coaching staff. Well, Tomsula's network was just fired. The bulk of his NFL career has been with the 49ers' defensive staff, and that staff is now gone. Remember how hard it was for Mike Singletary to get an offensive coordinator and we ended up with Jimmy Raye? That's because Singletary was promoted straight from being a position coach to a head coaching position. He hadn't had the opportunity to develop a network like most head coach candidates.
And what about his ability to create schemes and implement them? In the recent press conference, Tomsula either refused to express his Xs and Os philosophy or he doesn't have one. After the presser, neither would surprise me. But, it makes me think back to when Harbaugh was hired. He talked about bringing the West Coast Offense back to San Francisco; he explained why he thought it was the hardest position to play. He demonstrated an understanding of what is the most important position on the field. But Tomsula? He explained why he likes a power running game with hand motions. Instead of saying that they would draft players to a scheme and scheme to talent (you know, like every other team in the NFL), Tomsula should have actually mentioned even a basic philosophy about how a defense or an offense will work under his coaching tenure - at this point, I'm not sure at all that Tomsula has the football acumen to be a head coach. There's a huge difference between a position coach and a head coach. Remember, Singletary was a very good position coach for us.
Don't get me wrong: I'm rooting for Tomsula. I'm rooting hard. And not just because I'm a 49er fan; I'm also a Tomsula fan. I really don't want to see him burn out like Mike Singletary. But, I just don't know what Tomsula brings to the position that Singletary didn't have. Or, better yet, what Vic Fangio doesn't have, if you want an internal hire.
Well, actually, I do see it. It sticks out like a dangling modifier. Let's hope that York knows what he is doing and isn't getting blindsided by a sloppy mistake.