This is my Wednesday column.
Whether Jim Tomsula keeps his job next year or not, these are the top-five football sins he committed in 2015.
Football Sin No. 1: Allowing the players to set the schedule. Most of the 49ers’ problems stem from this Original Sin.
Jim Tomsula wanted to be the opposite of his predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, an authoritarian head coach. So, Tomsula became a “players’ coach.” He let his players come up with the schedule. Let them practice in the late afternoon during training camp because they wanted to work in the shade. Let them have a break every 30 minutes during meetings because they wanted to check their phones.
Football is a wargame. Players are supposed to follow a head coach like soldiers follow a general. Following orders creates discipline, which is the whole point of the game. Discipline.
The Niners are the least-disciplined team in the NFL. Either they sleepwalk through games or play over-aggressively and commit a dozen penalties. There’s no middle ground. Tomsula can’t control his team.
All of this makes you wonder who’s really in charge, the players or the coach?
Football Sin No. 2: Wasting training camp.
Tomsula could have created discipline had he worked his players hard during the late-afternoon training camp practices in the shade they requested. Harbaugh worked his players hard. His August practices routinely lasted three hours, and sometimes players got injured. Patrick Willis broke his hand. Chris Culliver tore his ACL.
Tomsula’s primary goal for training camp was to keep players healthy. So, his practices lasted about an hour and a half, counting stretching and warmups. The competitive stuff, like seven-on-seven drills and 11-on-11s, lasted about an hour.
Some veterans weren’t required to participate. Reggie Bush, who wasn’t injured, practiced roughly two or three times in training camp. Tomsula wanted to “save” Bush for the regular season. Bush injured his calf in Week 1, then tore his ACL in Week 8. He was totally unprepared to play football. But, hey, he was rested.
Tomsula created the softest healthy team in the NFL.
Football Sin No. 3: Wasting the preseason.
Tomsula acted as if his offense was so good it didn’t need the preseason. He sat the starters during the first exhibition game, then played them only five snaps during the second one.
Colin Kaepernick completed four passes for 26 yards and no touchdowns the final two preseason games. He was horrible. Maybe he would have played better if he had played more. Or, maybe Tomsula would have realized he needed to switch quarterbacks sooner.
Tomsula gave the players a leave of absence in preseason. Unfortunately, they were still absent for the regular season.
Football Sin No. 4: Not switching quarterbacks sooner.
Tomsula probably should have named Blaine Gabbert the starting quarterback when the season began. Gabbert outplayed Kaepernick during the preseason and ended up outplaying him during the regular season, too.
Tomsula definitely should have named Gabbert the starter after Kaepernick threw four interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. That game was no fluke.
At the very latest, Tomsula should have named Gabbert the starter after Kaepernick led the offense to three points at home in Week 4 and the Niners’ record fell to 1-3.
But, Tomsula waited. He finally switched quarterbacks when his team was 2-7 and the season was over. Tomsula froze when he had to make the crucial decision.
And when he made it, he was reluctant to stick to it. He wouldn’t name Gabbert the starter for more than one week at a time – he said he needed to discuss the decision with the quarterbacks after every game. He seemed afraid to upset Kaepernick.
Kaepernick eventually made the decision for Tomsula by shutting himself down for the season with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
Football Sin No. 5: Taking 16 weeks to figure out who should start where on the offensive line.
In terms of run blocking, the 49ers’ highest-graded offensive lineman during the preseason was guard Andrew Tiller. Until Week 11, he backed up Jordan Devey, who was weak. The minute the Niners benched Devey and promoted Tiller to the starting lineup, the run blocking improved.
In terms of pass protection, the 49ers’ highest-graded offensive lineman during the preseason was tackle Trent Brown. Until Week 16, he backed up right tackle Erik Pears, who gave up 10 sacks. The minute the Niners moved Pears to guard and made Brown the starting right tackle, the pass protection improved.
Turns out the Niners had a good offensive line all along and Tomsula didn’t even know. Sinful.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Player grades and stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.