Ignore the Yorkaganda and realize this much: Dumping Jim Tomsula, in and of itself, accomplishes nothing. All the 49ers have done is identify a scapegoat, firing the coach they never should have hired to replace the coach they never should have fired. Without also offing the general manager, Trent Baalke, Jed York only compounds another ongoing blunder and makes it impossible to find the sort of all-purpose football savant who needs control to fix a magnificent mess.
So forget David Shaw. He’s not coming.
And forget Sean Payton. He’s not coming, either, especially when thrifty Jed would have to pay him $8 million a year while sending a compensatory draft pick to New Orleans. Why would Payton want to answer to Jed and Trent when he, like mentor Bill Parcells, needs total football power? The stories floated by Payton’s people Sunday night have him wanting to be closer to his daughter on the West Coast. San Diego, which should have a vacancy, is on the West Coast.
And forget Chip Kelly. He’s not coming, either, even with his link to Baalke lieutenant Tom Gamble, not that you’d want Kelly anyway after he gave a contract extension to a player who uttered a racial slur.
And forget anybody else, most likely, except the next Jim Tomsula, who was hand-selected by the York/Baalke tag team, giving angry fans and Stadium Builder’s License owners little faith that the next coaching choice will be smarter. York is said to desire “a big fish.” Other than menu servings on the Suite Level, trust me: No big fish will be at Levi’s Stadium next season.
The previous big fish probably would agree. “Do not be deceived. You will reap what you sow,” Jim Harbaugh tweeted deep in the night, a fitting verse for an absolutely bizarre chapter in NFL history.
Of the numerous NFL coaching vacancies on this Black Monday, Santa Clara is the second-least attractive; only Cleveland is worse. The dysfunction that has poisoned and marginalized an iconic franchise has become a tragicomic topic in league circles. The senseless dismissal of Harbaugh, followed by the hiring and quick firing of overmatched Tomsula, has cemented York as the league’s biggest ownership buffoon. People do gossip in the football industry, and they hear the Jed stories: He’s a clueless and clumsy know-it-all, a Silicon Valley tech wannabe who refuses to contact Uncle Eddie DeBartolo or Carmen Policy for advice, a trust-fund CEO who only got a stadium built while riding the wave of his one good deed — hiring Harbaugh — which he undid by getting rid of him.
I mean, consider the shabby way that Jed and Trent fired Tomsula. The front office first leaked word of his impending demise to several national reporters, just in time for all the morning gab shows, then they left Tomsula in the dark for hours. “I have not talked to ownership,” he said at 5 p.m. or so, following a 19-16 overtime win over St. Louis. “Today is all about those players.”
Around two hours later, the 49ers confirmed his firing with a tweet: “Jim Tomsula has been relieved of his duties as head coach.”
Cold. What coach in his right mind would want to work for these people?
There was a rumor Sunday, as the Tomsula Error ended at 5-11, that Harbaugh was in The House That Khakis Built. Yep, that would have been a cool diss of The Jedster until you grasp that Harbaugh is way too happy at Michigan to waste time on bad memories, lobbying instead this weekend for a future WrestleMania in Ann Arbor while agreeing to be a running mate for rapper Wale in the 2020 presidential race. He did receive one nice tweet from a 49er.
“Congrats @CoachJim4UM for the 10 win season and the huge bowl victory!” wrote Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who soared with Harbaugh and faltered without him.
“Thanks, Kap! Much appreciated, means a lot! All the best in 2016!” Harbaugh replied.
Funny, but I spent several minutes looking for a retweet from York and couldn’t find one.
It’s just not as simple as depositing Tomsula into one of the three sets of waste receptacles throughout York’s technologically advanced stadium — Landfill, Recycle, Compost — and expecting the phone to ring with high-quality applicants. After early drafting and free-agency success when working beside Harbaugh, Baalke has left the roster with too many holes and projects. Even while being fair in pointing out the mass exodus of players last offseason, I’ve seen nothing from Baalke lately to indicate he can revive this debacle anytime soon. York can’t reasonably declare that Tomsula is a flop without also acknowledging that Baalke is a flop.
But that’s what Jed has done, which makes the coaching vacancy a career suicide venture for whoever dares to show up next. Imagine if he and Baalke had hired Adam Gase rather than Tomsula. Maybe Gase, who has done great work in refining Jay Cutler as Chicago’s offensive coordinator, would have improved Kaepernick’s game. But Gase didn’t want Tomsula as his defensive coordinator, another absurd demand by Jed/Trent. Would Gase — who would be a reasonable candidate with former Raiders coach and current Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, and former Denver coach and current New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — come to interview again?
Uh, why would he want to? Jed and Trent even demeaned a Super Bowl champion coach, local hero Mike Holmgren, who, at 66, inquired about the vacancy last winter and was told, “Nah, we’re going with a younger guy.” Those words became a piece of testimony in a separate age discrimination lawsuit against the 49ers. That means 63-year-old Mike Shanahan, who also wants the job, also is too old.
The one carrot that could attract an adventurous sort is a high pick in the first round of the April draft. Unfortunately, Baalke will be making that call. And what could have been the No. 5 pick now is No. 7 after a meaningless victory, further reducing the chances of landing Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Unless Baalke trades up, which isn’t his style, Cleveland or Dallas probably will draft Goff ahead of the Niners’ pick.
Don’t feel too sorry for Tomsula. The 49ers gave him $14 million over four years for his trouble, not bad for a guy who once lived in his car with his dog and cat as an unpaid volunteer assistant at his alma mater, Catawba College. A lot of us rooted for him because he seemed human and unpretentious, but as the front man for an NFL franchise valued at $2.7 billion, he was a walking, talking disaster.
We could have overlooked his malaprops and confusion if Tomsula had shown an ability to develop players and create a promising future. Baalke’s assembled talent isn’t very good — paging Arik Armstead — but after a Week 1 win over Minnesota, Tomsula generated no public confidence and didn’t do much in developing that talent. It was a dumb idea, hatched by York, who always liked Tomsula’s upbeat personality and his way with players.
The NFL isn’t a Kumbaya club, Jed. Harbaugh may have been a tyrannical pain in the ass, but last I looked, so are Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. So were Bill Parcells and Vince Lombardi. So was Bill Walsh, in a way. Harbaugh won big, period.
And since the day he left, the 49ers have lost big, period. Harbaugh may end up in the Hall of Fame someday. Jed and Trent might, too, but it would be the 49ers’ Hall of Fame. They’d have to nominate themselves because, most assuredly, no one else will.
Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at the San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his website at jaymariotti.com.