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Friday, January 1, 2016

The Yorks Shouldn't Blame Jim Tomsula for the 49er's Terrible Season

In an earlier post ("How Will the Niners Do This Year?") I noted that using ESPN's FPI (Football Power Index), FiveThirtyEight projected that the Niners would finish last in their division (granted one of the toughest divisions in football) with 6.6 wins ("2015 NFL Preview: Everything You Need To Know About The Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams And 49ers"). Later, using a different rating system (ELO), which gives greater weight to a team's performance the previous season, FiveThirtyEight projected that the Niners would win 8 games ("2015 NFL Projections").

Taken together, these provide a helpful benchmark to judge the performance of Niner head coach Jim Tomsula. They indicate that the Niners should've won approximately seven (7) games in 2015, and the fact that, at best, they will win five (5) (if they beat the Rams in their last game of the season) suggests that they underperformed in 2015 and that Tomsula is at least partially responsible. 

However, it wasn't Tomsula's fault why so many players bolted the team (either by retiring or signing with another team) after York and Baalke fired Jim Harbaugh (let's not pretend it was something else). Moreover, several Hall of Fame (or future Hall of Fame) coaches were unsuccessful early in the coaching careers. To wit:
  • Pete Carroll was 6-10 coaching the New York Jets in 1994 (and was fired after one season)
  • Bill Belichick was 36-44 coaching the Cleveland Browns from 1991-95 (after which he was fired)
  • Tom Landry was 18-46-4 in his first five seasons coaching the Dallas Cowboys (he wasn't fired and went on to win 2 Super Bowls)
  • Chuck Knoll was 12-30 in his first three seasons as the Pittsburgh Steeler's head coach (he, too, wasn't fired and went on to win 4 Super Bowls)
  • Bill Walsh was 8-24 in his first two seasons as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers (as you've probably guessed: he wasn't fired and went on to win 3 Super Bowls?)
Patience can be a virtue.

That said, the Niners are in need of an overhaul. The root of their problems lie squarely with CEO Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke. Although it's unlikely that the Jed's mom Denise (who owns the team) will fire Jed or sell the Niners (Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is reportedly interested in buying the team), something needs to happen. The most obvious move would be to "mutually part ways" with Baalke, but since the York's seldom do the obvious (except, perhaps, hiring Jim Harbaugh in 2011), who knows what they will do. If they do fire Baalke, then it's likely that Jim Tomsula will be gone as well because Tomsula is seen as Baalke's boy (so to speak).

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