SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco 49ers promoted longtime defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to head coach Wednesday, going with a familiar face following a national search that took more than two weeks and ended right in house.
Tomsula is set to be formally introduced Thursday in a news conference at Levi’s Stadium.
Tomsula replaces Jim Harbaugh, who parted ways with the Niners on Dec. 28 in what the team called a “mutual decision.” Harbaugh was introduced as Michigan’s new coach two days later following a successful four-year stint during which the 49ers reached three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.
“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,” CEO Jed York said in a statement. “Jim is a great teacher and a tremendous mentor who conducts himself with great class and integrity.”
San Francisco went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years since Harbaugh arrived in January 2011, and the franchise is turning to a familiar face to get the Niners back on track to chase a sixth championship.
York said a day after the season ended he wanted to find a “teacher” to lead the franchise forward. Certainly a coach familiar with the operation was important as the 49ers build around quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is coming off a disappointing year.
“I love my guys,” Tomsula said in a long sit-down with The Associated Press leading up to last season. “I have the best guys. They are just awesome guys from top to bottom.”
With the 46-year-old Tomsula’s hiring, there are questions about whether defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will depart given he wasn’t chosen for the top job and got leapfrogged by Tomsula.
“Our organization is excited to have Jim Tomsula leading this football team,” general manager Trent Baalke said. “We have had the privilege of working alongside Jim for the past eight seasons. He is a proven leader, teacher and mentor, and we look forward to seeing him apply his craft and vision to our team.”
From one energetic, animated Jim to another leading the way.
“It’s a good move. I look forward to fighting for Jim Tomsula,” said tight end Vernon Davis, who is a neighbor of Tomsula’s their kids play on the same flag football team. “Tomsula, just the energy that he provides during the games and having a relationship with him, I can tell that (for) players, he’s one of those coaches players wouldn’t mind playing for. Just his spirit. He’s a good guy and a terrific coach. He’ll allow you to go out and do whatever you can do. He’ll put each and every individual in place to perform at a high level.”
Tomsula is a perfect 1-0 as a head coach.
Serving a single-game stint as interim head coach to end the 2010 season following Mike Singletary’s firing, Tomsula chose to start Alex Smith under center over Troy Smith for a 38-7 win against Arizona in the season finale.
“We’re going to win. Let me make that clear,” Tomsula said at the time. “That was something we talked about this morning. Jed’s made that very clear. Trent Baalke’s made it very clear very, very crystal clear.”
Harbaugh was hired a couple of weeks later on a $25 million, five-year deal and quickly began a transformation of a team that had gone eight years without a winning record or playoff berth.
Now, if anybody might be able to persuade defensive lineman Justin Smith to return for another season after 14 years in the NFL, it might be his old position coach.
Tomsula could be a strong influence on running back Frank Gore returning, too.
Guiding Kaepernick will be a big part of the process.
The 49ers’ offense was inconsistent behind Kaepernick, who completed a second full season as starter that featured too many mistakes and missed opportunities. Harbaugh promoted him over Alex Smith in November 2012, and the 49ers fell short of a Super Bowl championship after that season, losing by three points to Baltimore.
“It’s up to us to make sure we compete for and win Super Bowls. That’s our only goal,” York said. “We don’t raise division championships banners. We don’t raise NFC Championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners.”
Tomsula will be challenged to get far more production out of an offense that struggled to score points in the second half last season. San Francisco managed only 37 points after halftime in nine games going into its 20-17 victory in the regular-season finale against Arizona.