Former 49ers coach Tomsula returns to his roots
SANTA CLARA » Jim Tomsula went off the NFL grid last year once the 49ers were done with him.
Colleagues and prospective employers struggled to reach him. Word was, he and his family headed to Florida. Basically, he vanished the way countless players have after NFL dreams get extinguished.
The 49ers fired Tomsula as head coach after a 2015 season in which the team went5-11— fired him amere 354 days after his promotion to replace Jim Harbaugh.
But now he’s back doing what he does best: coaching defensive linemen.
When Washington coach Jay G ru den looked to fill that spot on his staff in January, he sought out Tomsula. And sought. And sought.
“It was not easy. It was not easy, Iwill tell you that,” Gruden recalled on a conference call with Bay Area media Wednesday, ahead of Sunday’s game in Washington against the 49ers.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to call you right back after a call, either.
“I had to wait a little while, be a little patient,” Gruden continued. “But finally he called, had a great conversation with him, flew him up here, had a good conversation with him. We did what we could to get him and we got him.”
What Washington got was a defensive-line guru who flopped in a one-year, uncomfortable whirlwind as 49ers head coach.
Transitioning out of the Harbaugh era remains a daunting chore. After Tomsula came Chip Kelly for a 2-14 season, and now Kyle Shanahan is off to an 0- 5 start, but with a six-year contract as job security.
“I thought (Tomsula) was a good head coach,” said Aaron Lynch, a fourth-year defensive end. “Being a head coach has nothing to dowith how the season goes. It’s about the players you have.”
The 49ers have only 16 players on their 53-man roster still around from Tomsula’s lone season.
Tomsula had spent eight seasons as the 49ers’ defensive-line coach. He had gusto, personality, passion and a humanitarian side few could match.
Then came his promotion and a newrole.
Tomsula “has respectfully declined interview requests” such as one for this story, according to Washington’s public-relations department.
Tomsula returned to the NFL’s theater with a new look. After his wife told him he looked “old and scraggly,” the 49-year- old shaved his mustache and shed weight. He landed right at home coaching defensive line, however.
“He’s a great defensiveline coach,” Lynch said. “He knew everybody, he knew how to coach guys and he knew the schemes.”
Gruden knew all that about Tomsula, too.
“I called him before I hired a defensive coordinator and wanted to see if he was interested in coaching again, because you just never know,” Gruden said. “He was (interested), and he was really excited to work with Coach (Greg) Manusky, so it was kind of a package deal there.”
Manusky was the 49ers defensive coordinator from 2007-10, a role he’s assumed with Washington. Gruden credited Tomsula for having “our defensive linemen playing at a much higher level than before.”
Washington is allowing 88.8 rushing yards per game and just 3.9 yards per carry. Opponents averaged 4.7 yards per carry the previous two seasons combined, the league’ s worst mark; the 49ers allowed 4.4 ypc.
Bolstering Washington’ s defense is the addition of first-round draft pick Jonathan Allen, free agent Terrell McClain and linebacker Zach Brown, who complement linemen Ziggy Hood and Matt Ioannidis and linebackers Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan.
Linebacker Reuben Foster really wants to play for the first time since the season opener. How badly? He’s as desperate as a kid at your door on Halloween.
“I hope the doctors officially clear me, but I don’t know,” Foster said. “Hopefully they see, you know, a child in me, like, ‘ Want a candy?’
“I want some candy. Let me have some candy.”
Foster, a first- round draft pick, sustained a high-ankle sprain 11 snaps into his NFL debut. He resumed practicing on Wednesday, impressing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh with how flawless he was in terms of communications and assignments.
Foster’s return won’t push NaVorro Bowman from the starting lineup, Saleh added. Rather, Foster likely will stay at weakside linebacker with RayRay Armstrong, who has improved in recent games in place of Foster.
• FullbackKyle Jusczcyk ( back) missed his second straight day of practice.
• FourWashington starters haven’t practiced this week: left tackle Trent Williams ( knee), cornerback Josh Norman (rib), running back Rob Kelley (ankle) and safety Deshazor Everett (hamstring).