SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Jim Tomsula didn’t look like a guy who was prepared to stand up in front of hot lights and cameras Monday morning and talk about being head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. It was probably the farthest thing from his mind.
So when team president Jed York called Sunday night and hired him to be the Niners coach for the final week of the regular season, Tomsula was unprepared for everything that followed. But that’s what York likes about him.
“He apologized to me for not having a suit and tie on because he didn't have a chance to go home last night,” York said. “That's the kind of coach Jim Tomsula is. He's the kind of coach that stays here every night, he's the type of guy that grinds every day, he's the kind of guy that's going to make sure our team is focused this week.”
That’s what York is looking for – a coach to take over for one game in the wake of Mike Singletary’s firing Sunday night. Nothing more.
Tomsula, who’s been 49ers defensive line coach since 2007, isn’t a candidate to succeed Singletary. He didn’t even want to address the subject. He said he just wants to make sure the team finishes strong after Sunday’s 25-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams that knocked them out of the playoff race and ensures them of at least a 10-loss season. The 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
“I’m looking at this as a one-week calendar,” Tomsula said. “That’s what we have. From the beginning of the season, we’ve had a one-week calendar. Your long-term goals are next Sunday. That’s what makes this a little bit unique. So what we’re going to do is we’re go to win the game. We’re going to prepare to win the game on Sunday. All the energy, all the focus, everything we do this week is to get that win.”
The 49ers were favored to win the NFC West but opened the season with five consecutive losses and never found stability, either on or off the field. Singletary fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye in the season’s first month, switched quarterbacks Alex Smith and Troy Smith four times (including once Sunday) and never gave the team an identity. All that has added up to a 5-10 record and an eighth consecutive season without the playoffs.
“We were very optimistic about this season,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “We had high hopes of winning the division and going to the playoffs. For that not to happen is sad. But at the same time, I feel we’re all held accountable. It’s not just one person, it’s from top to bottom. Hopefully, with things happening the way they are, I trust that our management is going to do the right thing and put people around us to get this thing turned around.”
Monday morning, York also dismissed two Singletary assistants, inside linebackers coach Vantz Singletary, and pass-rush specialist Al Harris. Vantz Singletary is the nephew of Mike Singletary.
“They’re very, very close with Mike,” York said. “I think they took this very tough when Mike was let go, and I wanted to make sure that our players were the focus this week, that we weren’t dealing with issues on the coaching staff. I wanted to make sure that our coaches are here together and not worried about ‘What does my future look like?’ … That was my decision.”
Reporters weren’t permitted in the locker room Monday, although some players were brought in to a media workroom to answer questions. Those who were admitted they were unprepared for the news that Singletary had been fired.
“I thought coach Singletary would still be here,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “It did catch me surprise that he’s not going to be here anymore. I thought he would at least be here until after the last game. But like I said, it’s a business, and the guys upstairs make the decision.”
Tomsula, 43, has one year of head coaching experience with the Rhein Fire (2006) of now-defunct NFL Europa. He was also an assistant with the Berlin Thunder, Scottish Claymores and England Monarchs starting in 1998.
Asked how his time with Rhein prepared him for the NFL, Tomsula smiled and said, “Right now, we don't have any interpreters in here in this press conference. This is actually one of the easiest I've ever done, and it's a lot shorter.”
Tomsula said he spoke with Singletary after hearing the news Sunday.
“The one thing I will say is I don't think anybody has to worry about Mike Singletary,” he said. “Mike Singletary is a strong man with a good family. I simply called him and apologized that we didn't get it done. That's the bottom line. I asked if he was doing all right and he said yes.
“Mike Singletary's a strong man, he's a good man. He'll be fine.”