Only months into the job, the 49ers’ Jim Tomsula faces his first crisis as head coach, and he’s intent to meet it head on.
On Wednesday, Tomsula showed up for a news conference with a bright red scratch on his left cheek, one that had nothing to with a 17-3 loss against the Green Bay Packers last weekend and an ugly three-game losing streak.
“I cut myself on the doorway,” Tomsula explained between dabs at the podium.
The 49ers have run splat into a wall the last three weeks, and now it’s left to a man with no previous NFL head-coaching or coordinating experience to circle the wagons after 25-, 40- and 14-point losses.
“Terrible,” one grumpy player snapped when asked how he felt after the latest collapse.
Asked how Tomsula had held up under the adversity, a member of the defense said, “That’s a question you should ask him.”
“We’ve had a little bit of adversity, but [Tomsula] is doing the same thing he always has been doing — he’s not going off the deep end or anything,” safety Eric Reid said. “You turn on the [TV] and people say a lot of stuff about us. You hear it and it’s hard not to pay attention to it because we’re all fans of the game. He’s staying consistent, telling us that we just have to keep working.”
While critics clamor for a change at quarterback, Tomsula remains steady in his support of the embattled Colin Kaepernick, who will start against the New York Giants this Sunday night on the road.
“I do not have to clear that with anyone,” Tomsula said when asked if general manager Trent Baalke has input on Kaepernick’s status. “It is 100 percent my decision.”
“From the time I got here, he’s always been great to me, treated me with respect,” Kaepernick said. “We’ve always had a good relationship and that continues to this day.”
While careful not to point fingers, a few veteran players have expressed their frustration and unhappiness about the 1-3 start.
The unrest was apparent to a national television audience last weekend, when Tomsula had a animated, one-way conversation with linebacker Michael Wilhoite on the sideline. Wilhoite had committed a costly penalty on third down early in the game.
“Just to clear the air here, that was normal game-day for me,” Tomsula said. “I think you’ve seen me coaching enough. Maybe I looked intense, I don’t know. But we were talking about getting to where we need to be.”
Two days later, linebacker Gerald Hodges was acquired from the Minnesota Vikings in return for center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft choice. Hodges will compete with Wilhoite for playing time, but Tomsula denied the move was motivated by what happened last weekend.
“[Hodges] became available, and we picked up a guy that we think is a good football player,” Tomsula said. “That is nuts and bolts, exactly what that is.”
Then again, there’s only so much a coach can do with a roster that most talent scouts consider to be in the bottom third in the league.
“The environment that a coach sets up is huge,” Reid said. “The environment that [Tomsula] puts us in is good. It’s one of the best I’ve seen around in my young career. I definitely appreciate the way he handles the team.”