The San Francisco 49ers area dealing with numerous changes this offseason, and the switch from Jim Harbaugh to Jim Tomsula as head coach is probably the biggest. The departures of Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Frank Gore and others are big, but the transition to essentially a new coaching staff and philosophy is kind of a big deal. And it is something that will be discussed ad nauseam until we get a better handle on what the coaching staff brings to the table come the regular season.
In the meantime, we have quotations from Jim Tomsula and players, as well as anecdotes from practice to help us better understand Jim Tomsula the coach. Anquan Boldin recently conducted an interview with Bleacher Report. During the interview he was asked why fans should believe Tomsula can step in for Harbaugh so easily.
I've seen how many of the defensive linemen respond to him and how good a job he did managing that group. With the defensive line, you have a lot of really out-there, aggressive personalities, and he got the most out of those guys. He did it because he knew how to treat each of those guys differently. Great coaches are the coaches who know how to work with different personalities and still find a way to get the most out of people. I don't think you can coach every guy the exact same way, and Jim doesn't do that. He has done a great job with all the different characters he has had.
Eric Branch recently wrote an article about Jerome Simpson, who has dealt with numerous off the field issues. Tomsula has made a point of having daily conversations with Simpson to get to know him. This is but one example, but it is a good example of the kind of thing that can help a coach build rapport across the team.
This is all important in the team-building process, but it does not mean the Jim Tomsula experiment will work come football season. Given that we only have quotations and practice anecdotes to work with, I am optimistic. Praise has been consistent, including mentions of him being more than just a meathead defensive line coach. There is a lot more to being a coach than having the players on your side, but this is a strong step in the right direction. I'm not going to bet the farm on the 49ers in 2015, but I am cautiously optimistic.
At the same time, I do think it is fine for people to still be concerned about the transition. The 49ers are coming off an unbelievable run from 2011 to 2013 under Jim Harbaugh. Things turned ugly in 2014, and I think it is also reasonable for people to be skeptical and protect themselves from a potential stomach punch if things go south in a hurry. I am not viewing it from that angle, but I see why people choose to.