NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

Despite missing out on two higher-profile targets earlier in the day, the San Francisco 49ers have reportedly added a pair of assistants to new coach Jim Tomsula's staff.

Steve Logan, who was Tomsula's offensive coordinator in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire in 2006, is expected to join the Niners' offensive staff in an unknown role, according to CSNBayArea.com., while former 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, whose position coach was Tomsula, is in line to be a defensive assistant, per the Sacramento Bee.

Also, the Niners have contemplated Philadelphia Eagles receivers coach Bob Bicknell as their offensive coordinator, while offensive assistant Ronald Curry, who was pursued by the Buffalo Bills, is now a target of the University of Florida to be the Gators' receivers coach, the NFL Network reported.

The 49ers have yet to announce any hirings.

Logan, the head coach at East Carolina from 1992-02, was the quarterbacks and receivers coach for the Berlin Thunder in 2004 and 2005, when Tomsula was the Thunder's defensive coordinator. Logan, who then was Boston College's O-coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and worked with quarterback Matt Ryan, has only worked in the NFL as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' running backs coach from 2009-11.

Franklin started 59 of 62 games for the Niners between 2007, Tomsula's first year with the team, and 2010, with three of his four career sacks and his lone interception coming under his tutelage. He last played in 2013, for the Indianapolis Colts.

The Niners missed out on offensive coordinator target Rob Chudzinski, who was promoted by the Colts from special assistant to the head coach to associate head coach, and Perry Fewell, who chose to take the secondary coach position with Washington.
The longer the San Francisco 49ers go without hiring an offensive coordinator, the more credence is lent to the notion that they had no true plan in place for top assistants when they announced Jim Tomsula had been promoted to head coach on Jan. 15.

Unless, of course, the 49ers have simply been biding their time, awaiting Indianapolis Colts special assistant Rob Chudzinski’s contract to expire to make a move on him. Chudzinski’s contract reportedly expires this week.

Thing is, the 49ers are not the only team still without an O.C.; the St. Louis Rams also have a vacancy there, and the Colts have denied both teams permission to interview Chudzinski.

In fact, the Rams might be weary of waiting for Chudzinski as the St. Louis Post Dispatch has reported the Rams are scheduled to give former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett a second interview today.

And as far as 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is concerned, he already has his top O.C. candidate in mind as he took to Instagram Monday to post his feelings, along with a mug shot of Chudzinski, writing, "All I want for Christmas…is to meet #robchudzinski #OC."

Christmas, though, was a month and two days ago. Might the 49ers be too late in this chase? Stay tuned.
The San Francisco 49ers played in three straight NFC title games, with a Super Bowl appearance sandwiched in the middle, from 2011 through 2013. So clearly, they were only a break or two, a play here or there, away from returning to Super Sunday, no?

Hey, even ESPN NFL analyst Jeff Saturday said the Niners were the team with the most talent on its roster to NOT make Super Bowl XLIX.

A Pro Football Focus project, though, took it a step further by analyzing the 28 teams that played in conference championship games from the 2007 through 2013 seasons and found that “on average, 40 percent of those rosters were composed of good/elite players (you had to play 250-plus snaps to qualify)."

Using that methodology, PFF determined how many above-average players stood between your team and contending for this year’s Super Bowl.

And when applied to the Niners, it found they were a mere six such players away. But that does not factor in injuries or importance of position, so to speak.

It is interesting fodder -- PFF determined there was only one elite player on the Niners’ roster, and it’s a head-scratcher, unless you factor in only what happened this season as a bubble -- and you can find the entire project, with my takes, here.
Take “front-runner” Lane Kiffin off the San Francisco 49ers’ short list of offensive coordinator candidates.

Kiffin, the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans and current offensive coordinator at Alabama, confirmed Saturday he would be staying in college rather than returning to the NFL, via the Alabama football team's official Twitter feed.



Last week, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Kiffin was the “front-runner” to land the gig on new Niners coach Jim Tomsula’s staff. But with Kiffin staying in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to where will the 49ers shift their focus?

Indianapolis Colts special offensive assistant Rob Chudzinski, a former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, has also been a target of the 49ers, but they, as well as the St. Louis Rams, have reportedly been denied permission to interview Chudzinski.

“I’m not going to get into specifics, but it’s ultimately my job to make sure that good people stay in this building and don't just walk right now,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said Friday. “So we’ll address that and do our best to keep good people here.”

Reports, though, have Chudzinski’s contract expiring next week.

The Niners have also been linked to Mike Shanahan for the offensive coordinator opening, and the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Denver Broncos was the team’s play-caller the last time the 49ers won the Super Bowl, 20 years ago.

Niners quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst also could be considered an option.
Not many people would pass up the chance for a do-over, right?

ESPN NFL analyst Mel Kiper Jr. did just that with last year's draft. He went back over all 32 teams' 2014 selections and re-graded everyone's picks.

A year ago he gave the San Francisco 49ers a post-draft grade of "A."

Hyde
Ward
Now?

"I really thought this was a fantastic draft at the time, and while I still really like it, the issues are that we don't know if they have a starting wide receiver out of this class, and that's a position of need," Kiper wrote. "While they got contributions in several places from this group, it was a disappointing season for the 49ers measured against their expectations."

An 8-8, non-playoff season essentially cost Jim Harbaugh his job.

Kiper mentioned the likes of defensive back Jimmie Ward and running back Carlos Hyde as good gets and referred to linebackers Aaron Lynch and Chris Borland as steals in the draft but wanted to see more out of center Marcus Martin and receiver/returner Bruce Ellington.

"This is another good draft that gets dinged slightly because the team took a step back, particularly on offense," Kiper wrote.

So, what is Kiper's re-adjusted grade on the Niners' 2014 draft? It's Insider so you'll have to click here. Insider
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There was a reason Eric Mangini was referred to as “Mangenius” early in his coaching career, both in positive and negative ways.

There is also a reason Mangini has not been coaching on the defensive side of the ball since at least 2010, when he was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

The San Francisco 49ers and new coach Jim Tomsula, though, believe there is still some magic in Mangini when it comes to replicating not only his past success as a defensive-minded coach, but in keeping Vic Fangio’s achievements rolling.

Otherwise, why tab Mangini to succeed Fangio as the Niners’ defensive coordinator, per a report from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, after four straight seasons with top-five total defenses?

As 49ers tight ends coach last year and a senior offensive consultant in 2013, Mangini kept a relatively low profile on Jim Harbaugh’s staff. The thinking was Harbaugh wanted Mangini on that side of the ball to give his offensive coaches an inkling as to what a defense might be thinking.

[+] EnlargeEric Mangini
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuBefore becoming head coach of the Jets and Browns, Eric Mangini was defensive coordinator of the Patriots.
His resume spoke for itself.

Mangini, who interviewed for the Oakland Raiders head coach job that eventually went to Jack Del Rio, and was considered for their defensive coordinator job as well as the one in Washington, began his career as a ball boy for the Browns and then-coach Bill Belichick took a shine to him.

In 1996, Mangini was an offensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens before rejoining Belichick, who was the New York Jets defensive coordinator, in the Meadowlands as a defensive assistant from 1997 through 1999.

He went to New England with Belichick in 2000 as defensive backs coach through 2004, winning three Super Bowl rings, before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2005. The Patriots had the No. 26 total defense that season and, a year later, he landed his first head coach gig with the Jets, becoming the youngest head coach in the NFL at 35.

The Jets went 10-6 in 2006 and lost in the wild-card round to the AFC East champion Patriots 37-16. The Jets went 4-12 in 2007.

In 2008, the Jets started out 8-3 but lost four of their last five to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Mangini, who blew the whistle on his mentor Belichick’s “Spygate” scandal and later said he regretted doing it, was fired. But he found work quickly, hired as the Browns head coach.

A pair of 5-11 seasons ended Mangini’s Cleveland stay and he worked for ESPN as an NFL analyst in 2011 and 2012.

That’s when coaching called to him in San Francisco.

Mangini has experience with both 3-4 and 4-3 base defenses -- new senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Jason Tarver, the former Raiders’ defensive coordinator, ran a 4-3 in Oakland but is a 3-4 coach at heart -- and the 49ers’ personnel dictates a 3-4 scheme.

However, the Niners could put Chris Borland at middle linebacker and flank him with All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, both of whom are coming off injury. Then they probably would have to put outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Aaron Lynch at defensive end.

Still, the 49ers would have to figure out what to do with their interior defensive linemen, which is a question mark with the uncertain status of Justin Smith, though the D-line is Tomsula’s forte.

It's all in due time for the rebirth of "Mangenius," right?
As far as the likes of Vernon Davis, Derek Carrier, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Asante Cleveland are concerned, they hope the hiring of Tony Sparano as tight ends coach is more than a ceremonial title.

They should want Sprano to fix them, literally and figuratively.

Indeed, the San Francisco 49ers’ tight end group suffered through an injury-filled and shockingly unproductive season in 2014.

Combined, the quintet combined for 39 receptions for 423 yards, averaging 10.9 yards per catch, and two touchdowns.

Sparano
By comparison, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had 64 catches, 703 yards and five TDs by himself in 2014.

Granted, pass-catchers can’t catch balls if they’re not thrown to them, but the lack of targets would speak to quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s lack of faith in the tight ends in general, Davis in particular.

Consider: After making 13 touchdown catches in 2013, Davis had two in 2014, with none after the opening game at Dallas. The two-time Pro Bowl selection was not targeted at all in the red zone after kickoff weekend and his 26 catches were his fewest since his rookie season of 2006. His 9.4-yards-per-catch average was a career-low.

Carrier added nine receptions for 105 yards and McDonald, a second-round draft pick in 2013, had two catches for 30 yards. Celek checked in with two catches for 53 yards. Cleveland did not catch a pass in six games.

Granted, injuries played a huge part as Davis missed two games with back and ankle injuries, and Carrier (foot), McDonald (back) and Celek (ankle) all finished the season on injured reserve.

So, besides being healthier in 2015, how can Sparano help resurrect a TE crew that regressed under the defensive-minded Eric Mangini after combining for 62 catches for 1,007 yards (16.2 yards per catch) and 13 TDs in 2013?

Sparano, most recently the Oakland Raiders interim head coach, does have experience with tight ends. Granted, not on a daily level since 2004 with the Dallas Cowboys. But Sparano did tutor the aforementioned nine-time Pro Bowl tight end Witten during the first two years of his NFL career.

And Witten might be Canton-bound with 943 catches for 10,502 yards and 57 TD catches in 12 seasons.

The Niners would be satisfied with a return to relevance for their tight ends under Sparano ... for now.

Tracking Jim Tomsula's staff

January, 22, 2015
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A week after Jim Tomsula was introduced as the San Francisco 49ers' 19th head coach in franchise history, the team has yet to fill openings at offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special-teams coach.

There has been movement at other positions, though.

Here is a tracker of assistants linked to Tomsula's staff:

Offensive coordinator -- Lane Kiffin is a "front-runner" for the position. Rob Chudzinski, Mike Shanahan and Marc Trestman were also linked, though Trestman was hired as Baltimore's coordinator and the Indianapolis Colts are reportedly blocking teams from interviewing Chudzinski. Niners QB coach Geep Chryst is considered an option.

Offensive line coach -- Chris Foerster, the Niners’ O-line coach in 2008 and 2009, is reportedly returning to same position.

Assistant offensive line coach -- Eric Wolford purportedly is joining Foerster.

QB coach -- Chryst, the Niners' QB coach since 2011, is reportedly set to return, though in what capacity is not yet known. He was linked to Chicago Bears' coordinator position before they hired Adam Gase.

Tight ends coach -- Former Oakland Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano is set to come down I-880.

Running backs coach -- Tom Rathman is reportedly set to return in the same capacity.

Offensive assistant -- Ronald Curry, with the Niners since 2013, was wooed by Buffalo, though the Niners reportedly denied the Bills permission to interview him.

Special-teams coordinator -- Former New York Jets special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey is linked to Niners’ opening after Brad Seely, released by Niners, was hired by Oakland Raiders for the same position. McGaughey worked with Tomsula in NFL Europe.

Defensive coordinator -- The 49ers were denied permission by Cincinnati to speak with Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph, whose NFL coaching career began with Niners as a secondary coach. The Niners also considering former tight end coach Eric Mangini, a defensive mind who was New England Patriots’ coordinator in 2005 and head coach of the New York Jets (2006-08) and Cleveland Browns (2009-10).

Senior defensive assistant/linebackers -- Former Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was hired for the job. He ran a 4-3 defensive scheme in Oakland but is a 3-4 strategist at heart.
Former Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who was a candidate to replace Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, will instead join the Niners as a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach, ESPN has learned.

Tarver was an assistant with the 49ers for 10 years, serving first as an offensive quality-control coach before moving to assistant running backs/offensive assistant and outside linebackers coach between 2001 and 2010.

He was on the same defensive staff with new Niners coach Jim Tomsula from 2007-10 and coached Patrick Willis in his first few seasons.

Tarver, who has degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, then went to Stanford for a year before landing the Raiders' defensive coordinator job under Dennis Allen in 2012.

In Oakland, where he was known as a “baby genius” and a “mad scientist” by the players, his defenses finished 18th, 11th and 12th in total defense, though the Raiders ran a 4-3 scheme.

The Niners, whose personnel dictates a 3-4 base, have yet to hire a defensive coordinator. Former tight ends coach Eric Mangini is reportedly a candidate.
San Francisco 49ers strong safety Antoine Bethea, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Indianapolis Colts, has been named to this Sunday’s NFL All-Star Game in Arizona, the team announced Monday night.

Bethea is replacing Kam Chancellor, who will be playing for the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

The Niners’ first-year safety took to Twitter in response to his being named.



Bethea, who signed a reported four-year, $21 million free-agent contract with the Niners after eight years with the Colts, was named the 49ers’ MVP in voting by his teammates.

He finished with 86 tackles, a sack, one forced fumble, a career-high 10 passes defensed and a career high-tying four interceptions. Bethea also had his first career pick-6, a 49-yarder against the San Diego Chargers’ Philip Rivers on Dec. 20.

Two other 49ers were named initially in left tackle Joe Staley, his fourth selection, and left guard Mike Iupati, a three-timer. But Iupati, who will be a free agent, pulled out of the exhibition with an elbow injury suffered late in the season and has been replaced by Miami Dolphins guard Mike Pouncey.

The Pro Bowl draft will occur Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT with Hall of Fame receivers Michael Irvin and Cris Carter doing the picking with the game Sunday at 5 p.m. PT at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
And you thought Jim Harbaugh wore out his welcome and burned bridges on his way out of town.

Lane Kiffin has carpet-bombed his previous stops, be it in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders or in college with Tennessee and USC. And yet, here he is, a “front-runner” for the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator job under new coach Jim Tomsula, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Other names mentioned as candidates include Rob Chudzinski, Mike Shanahan and Marc Trestman.

In one sense, Kiffin to Santa Clara makes all the sense in the world. In another, Niners fans should take Geena Davis' advice in “The Fly” and be afraid. Be very afraid.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonLane Kiffin has left his previous coaching jobs amid controversy and acrimony.
Although Kiffin’s offensive mind is ahead of the curve and the Niners need someone to get Colin Kaepernick going, the baggage that Kiffin brings may outweigh the positives.

As Alabama’s offensive coordinator last season, the Crimson Tide went 12-2 and had the No. 17 total offense in the country, averaging 484.5 yards per game. Quarterback Blake Sims, whose 88.5 Total Quarterback Ranking was second nationally entering the playoffs, passed for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Derrick Henry, meanwhile, rushed for 990 yards, and T.J. Yeldon had 979 rushing yards.

Yes, Kiffin has always been about an explosive passing attack, which sounds good on the surface, but the Niners’ personnel is better suited for a power running game. So how would Tomsula, an eight-year defensive line coach who said the team’s schemes would be dictated by personnel, reconcile such a philosophical flip, especially if players balked?

Besides, for what it’s worth, Kiffin, who has been with Nick Saban for one year, said in December he would be back in Tuscaloosa next year.

“Yes. Definitely,” Kiffin said before the Tide’s playoff loss to eventual national champ Ohio State. “I think we’ve still got a lot of stuff we can do better. We’ll obviously be working with a new quarterback, and that will be exciting. We’ve done that before.

“To me, that’s always exciting, the unknown.”

Throughout his career, which has been described by observers as unfailingly falling forward, Kiffin has uttered similar bromides -- even if every stay ended badly.

Then again, the realist might counter, everything ends badly. Otherwise, it would not end, right?

But Kiffin, as noted above, always seems to have a nuclear finish.

At USC, after going 28-15, he was pulled off the team bus and essentially fired on the tarmac at LAX in the middle of the night after returning from a loss at Arizona State in 2013.

At Tennessee, after a star-crossed 7-6 season in 2009, Kiffin resigned to take the USC gig, setting off wild protests and eliciting death threats in Knoxville.

But it is his exit from Oakland that remains the standard-bearer.

Think Al Davis and overhead projector.

The Sept. 30, 2008, presser featured Davis reading a three-page letter he sent to Kiffin warning him some two weeks earlier about staying in line and featured, besides the projector, an intermission.

Davis railed against young “Lance” (hey, that’s what Davis called him in his introductory presser), saying Kiffin engaged in “what I would call the propaganda, the lying that had been going on for weeks and months and a year and time.

“I think he conned me. I think he conned all you people.”

Kiffin, Davis claimed, was going after the Arkansas job while employed by the Raiders.

Niners CEO Jed York’s mantra has become winning with class. So why, again, would the 49ers want to court such dysfunction?

Then again, it’s not like they’ve been the model of consistency or decorum of late, either.
Harkening the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., General George S. Patton, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali and even Leon Spinks, San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott has some advice for new Niners coach Jim Tomsula.

“You’ve got to move people,” Lott told KNBR 680 on Friday, referencing MLK and Patton as leaders. “You’ve got to move people when they don’t want to be moved. And by the way, this year, [Tomsula] could have moved some guys. He could have [moved] some guys to … an incredible expectation.”

Lott, who played in San Francisco from 1981-90, did not say if he endorsed Tomsula getting promoted from defensive line coach to head coach. But Lott did acknowledge Tomsula already had an in with the guys on the D-line, much like George Seifert did with the defense when he was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Bill Walsh in 1989.

But there are also potential pitfalls, Lott said.

“Now [Tomsula is] going to manage a whole group of people and, by the way, a whole group of people that have a lot of different issues,” Lott said. “It starts now. There’s some guys that can be exceptional football players but, as we all know, Bill Walsh would tell you, Hey, I’ve got to manage you 365 days a year and get the most out of you.”

Lott also addressed Tomsula having a tough time in his 62-minute introductory news conference on Thursday. That’s where he paraphrased Pryor’s take on "The Greatest."

“You don’t have to be Ali to be able to articulate … the fight,” Lott said. “Leon Spinks couldn’t get it out, but he could still knock you out.

“So, [Tomsula] couldn’t articulate it yesterday, the way maybe we would like it. But hopefully he’s starting to make a dent tomorrow. And the dent that he’s got to make is getting everybody to play to a certain level. And if they’re not playing to a certain level, they’ve got to be punished.”

Lott, who also gave a shout out to fellow USC Trojan Jack Del Rio in the wake of his getting the Oakland Raiders' head coaching job, said he was interested to see how Tomsula will handle talented 49ers players if and when they cross the “moral compass” line.

Yes, there are many questions about Tomsula’s vision, but Lott later took to Twitter to express himself on that topic.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Three players attended the news conference introducing Jim Tomsula as the San Francisco 49ers head coach Thursday at Levi’s Stadium -- free- agent cornerback Perrish Cox, fullback Bruce Miller and nose tackle Ian Williams.

All three had glowing reviews of Tomsula, who was promoted to replace Jim Harbaugh after eight seasons as the team’s defensive line coach, with Miller saying he would sometimes sneak over to Tomsula’s huddles to get himself fired up.

The team even set up a photo shoot with Tomsula, general manager Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York in front of lockers featuring the jerseys of left tackle Joe Staley, free-agent running back Frank Gore, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, free safety Eric Reid, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman and defensive end Justin Smith, who is considering retirement.

So what did some of the star players who were not in attendance say about Tomsula? The Niners provided a quote sheet to the media. Here are their thoughts, provided by the public relations staff, in alphabetical order, and quick thoughts on said, ahem, thoughts by yours truly…

Right guard Alex Boone: “I’m excited. Jimmy T. is going to be great for this team. I think it’s a step in the right direction. He understands everybody. The one thing that I’ve said about him is that he understands the trench game. That’s the big part of this game is understanding what happens in the trenches. Once you understand that, you really have a grasp on the game. He’s a great guy, a great mentor, a great friend, and I’m excited for him.”

Paydirt or fool’s gold?: Boone also strongly backed Harbaugh and insisted ad nauseum the reports of locker room discord with Harbaugh were a media creation.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick: “I’m very excited that he’s going to be our head coach. I think he’s a tremendous coach, as well as a great guy, and I know he’s going to help us win. He is always upbeat and fun to be around. I can’t wait to get a playbook in my hands.”

Paydirt or fool’s gold?: Kaepernick is a hard worker, no doubt, but his continued development, and need to stop his regression, rests with a strong offensive coordinator. He did not work with Tomsula on a daily basis, so this could be interesting.

Free safety Eric Reid: “I personally couldn’t be any more happy for him, knowing his past to where he’s been and how he’s gotten here. It’s just great. And to make it even better, he’s a great person and I know that guys will love to play for him. I think I can speak for a lot of guys when I say that we all love to play for him. He’ll do great things with this team.”

Paydirt or fool’s gold?: Reid and his assignments will not be touched, so he should love having a defensive-minded coach at the top of the food chain, so to speak.

Outside linebacker Aldon Smith: “Obviously, he’s somebody who I’m comfortable with because he’s been here since I was drafted and has been my coach. We’ve already got a great relationship, and I’m looking forward to the direction he’s going to lead us. One thing he taught me was that I was able to do things, and not only make myself better, but make the defense and the team better. He helped me elevate my game.”

Paydirt or fool’s gold?: And obviously Smith should love this move, too, considering he did see Tomsula on a regular basis and Tomsula would not divulge how he would have handled the numerous past transgressions of Smith and former DE Ray McDonald, real or imagined.

LT Joe Staley: “Jimmy has been the only coach that has been on the staff since I’ve been in the NFL with the 49ers. He’s been a tremendous coach for the staff and just the passion he brings. I remember when he was head coach for that one game (2010), how much energy and excitement he brought and how much the guys loved playing for him. I look forward to working with him full-time as a head coach. I’m excited to get started with him.”

Paydirt or fool’s gold?: Ding, ding, ding. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Staley gets it, even if he never worked with Tomsula on a daily basis. This hiring was about the total package, in the eyes of Baalke and York, and how he’s a “teacher” and “motivator.” Check those boxes, Big Joe.

Inside linebaker Patrick Willis: “I was excited when I found out he was going to be the next head coach. Jim and I have been here since my rookie year. We went through our downs and had our ups, but we’re looking forward to bringing it back. We know Coach Tomsula and we know what he’s about, and he knows the players on this team. So we’re looking to come in and hit the ground running. No sitting back and waiting. We’re going to hit the ground running.

“Coach Tomsula, I’d like to say, he’s a players’ coach. He’s a players’ coach to the degree of he knows how to connect with his players, whether you’re a DB or whether you’re a linebacker, you’re a defensive lineman, and even the offensive side. He just knows how to touch your players in the right way and I think it’s positive.”

Paydirt or fool’s gold?: Willis knows of which he speaks when it comes to having a relationship with Tomsula. He respects him and will be motivated by him. But will Willis’ surgically-repaired left big toe and looming big salary-cap number cooperate? Stay tuned.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Trent Baalke does not like doing media conferences. The San Francisco 49ers general manager prefers to stay behind the scenes and do his daily work.

But there he was Thursday, sitting with CEO Jed York and Jim Tomsula on the dais as Tomsula was introduced as the Niners’ 19th head coach in franchise history. And just in case you missed it, Baalke showed just who was in charge of the football side of things inside Levi’s Stadium after the purported power struggle with former coach Jim Harbaugh ... on more than a few occasions.

Or did you miss when Baalke quipped, “I think, somewhere in there, he said we’re going to run the football,” after a long Tomsula soliloquy on his X’s and O’s philosophy that revealed, well, little?

Or when Baalke barked, “Whose staff is this? It’s our staff. I get tired of the same questions all the time relative to, who's got final say, who's pulling the trigger? We’re doing it. I can’t emphasize that enough. Not one person is going to make every decision in this building.

“It isn’t always getting the best. It’s getting the best that can work together. That’s the goal. That’s the objective. Finding 17 people, 18 people, whatever that number is, that can really come together and get it done.”

As general manager, Baalke still has final say on the roster and with Tomsula as his head coach, rather than the oft-combative Harbaugh, there should be less friction. Which should lead to more harmony, right?

In fact, Baalke said the job was offered to Tomsula and Tomsula only, that Baalke flying to Denver the night before Tomsula was hired to meet with Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was simply part of the process.

“I’m not the X and O guy,” Baalke said. “I’m not the scheme guy. I’m not the coach, and don’t want to be. What I want to do is be able to look at the team from a 30,000-foot view and bring in, acquire as much talent as we can. That talent acquisition, I learned a long time go, it’s not just players, it’s coaches, it’s front office people.

“It’s everyone on the football operations side. And I think if you ask Jed, it would be no different for the organization as a whole, business or football.”

But with no doubt that Baalke is calling the shots on the football side.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Something was amiss with the San Francisco 49ers' offense this past season. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked uncomfortable and could never quite shake it.

He appeared tethered as the Niners attempted to convert the dual-threat QB into more of a pure pocket passer. So I asked new coach Jim Tomsula if Kaepernick needed to be unleashed next season.

“I want people to have fun playing football,” Tomsula said.

Jones
Kaepernick
Kaepernick, who has been silent on social media in the wake of Tomsula’s hiring, offered his thoughts through the 49ers P.R. department Thursday evening.

“I’m very excited that he’s going to be our head coach,” Kaepernick said in the release. “I think he’s a tremendous coach, as well as a great guy, and I know he’s going to help us win. He is always upbeat and fun to be around. I can’t wait to get a playbook in my hands.”

Kaepernick will work with two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner this offseason.

“That’s who Colin is,” Tomsula said. “I mean, Colin’s a hard-working guy that really wants it and anybody that’s had a chance to sit and talk with him individually, he’s really a nice guy. He’s a good guy. He’s a thoughtful guy. He’s an intelligent guy. He’s a guy with a perspective.

“Kurt Warner? What a guy he is. You go and hang out with Kurt Warner, you’re going to get something out of it.”

Kaepernick was sacked a league-leading 52 times last season and his Total QBR fell from 68.6, which was sixth in the NFL in 2013, to 55.9 (17th) last season. He did pass for a career-high 3,369 yards and complete 60.5 percent of his throws though, compared to 58.4 percent the season prior.

But his TD passes were down, to 19 from 21, while his interceptions were up, to 10 from eight.

Tomsula’s choice as offensive coordinator will have a huge bearing and what Kaepernick will do in 2015.

So what is Tomsula’s vision for Kaepernick, who rushed for 639 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry with a 90-yard TD sprint?

“I think he can run,” Tomsula said. “I think he can throw. I think he can change the pace of a game, change the speed of the game. I think he’s very intelligent. I think he can do a lot of things. When I put it all together, he can do a lot of things with his feet. He can do lot of things with his hands. He can do a lot of things with his arms. He can do a lot of things with his eyes. And he can do a lot of things with his brain.

“Moreso than a traditional quarterback, he does it with the lower body. Look at that, corral it and let’s accentuate those things as we continue to strengthen other areas.”

In this instance, it’s all about jumpstarting Kaepernick.

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