SANTA CLARA — This is the transcript of Jim Tomsula’s post-draft press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ public relations department.
It seems like there’s some good guys that you took. Was that a priority for you? Was that something that you really looked at, who these people were as people?
“Yeah. Can’t separate the person from the player.”
Did you talk to each of those guys beforehand?
I forget who we spoke to the other day, but they said you didn’t talk X’s and O’s, it was more other things. What are the sorts of things that you asked them to help you figure out who they are?
“Again, I don’t know that I’m trying to figure out who they are. When Trent talked about our personnel department, there was a time where in personnel you watched tape, scouted players, talked to players about football. Now you’re a private investigator. You’re doing background. I mean there’s just so much work involved, okay? There’s so many people involved, it’s a little nuts. There’s a real big gray area there. There’s a lot of work that gets done there. And then there’s innuendos. It gets to be a big, gray, murky place, it really does. That’s not an area I think any of us like to live in. Again, you’re going to hear this, hold a guy to that, and he didn’t do anything. I mean, you get all this hearsay. That kind of stuff gets crazy. The point that I do when I talk to the guys, I don’t know what it is, I look you in the eyes and we talk, okay? You all are reporters and journalists. You look at people all the time and talk to them. You figure out facial expressions. You figure out who’s giving you a line of baloney and who’s not. You’re always trying to decipher what’s in between the lines and you’re trying to get the message. Quite frankly, maybe I need to start coming to see y’all and figure it out because that’s what I’m trying to do. I always say it’s because of where I’m from, it’s back in the neighborhood. You didn’t fall off a fruit truck yesterday. You sit and talk to the guys. You ask them questions. I’m looking at them. Can I deal with this guy? Everything is a personal relationship. I mean, it starts right there. We got playbooks and all this other stuff. If you and I can’t communicate on a daily, minute, second basis, all the information and everything else doesn’t go anywhere.”
Curious about Trenton Brown, the guy who said he was 387 pounds, dropped a ton of weight. What was that conversation like? What did you find out about him and his ability to make that adjustment in his life-style in hopes of parlaying it into an NFL career?
“From one guy that likes to eat to another [laughter]. That’s pretty much the way the conversation started, okay? I mean, that’s truth. Really, I mean, we got talking. I talk to the guys and it’s private. I mean, what I’d like to say about that guy is obviously, look, we can make science, we can go into all kinds of stuff. The less I put into here, the smaller this gets. I know that. That’s a discipline. We have people who help you with that. We have habits to create. Everybody’s got something. Other people have to gain weight. Everybody’s got something. Our strength and conditioning staff, our medical staff here at the 49ers, is second to none. It’s fantastic. The commitment that our general manager and our ownership make to that department is second to none. My first job as a football coach was a strength coach. The only reason I ever got out of Steel Valley High School is somebody in a weight room, Jack Garrity. I’m not an athlete. I went in and worked hard in a weight room. It’s just something I believe in. When you put weight on your back and you got to go down, it makes you strain. There’s a lot of iron in there. It’s sweat. It’s not pleasant. It’s a grind. But people actually get excited in there. That’s a great place. So that’s where we start. That’s where that guy’s going to start. I mean, that’s what we do. You guys are seeing some of these bodies. Some of the guys we’ve taken before, look at them now. Quinton Dial didn’t look like that when he got here. Neither did Ian Williams. Ray McDonald didn’t look like that. Justin Smith didn’t look like that. Glenn Dorsey didn’t look like that. Tank Carradine didn’t look like that. On and on and on. That part of it, that’s where we start.”
When they bring in players who maybe haven’t played a lot of football, there’s a lot of developing, Trent talked about being big molds of clay, as a coach, how do you see that opportunity to kind of get your hands on these guys and really develop them and bring them along to be good NFL players?
“My thoughts on that are quite simply my background’s obviously development. Division II football coach, NFL Europe. I mean, I’m into development. My point is that you can’t teach 6’6″, you can’t teach bend, you can’t teach speed, you can’t teach length. You can’t teach those things. You can’t teach an innate toughness. You can’t teach that. You got that or you don’t. Those are the things we want to bring in the building. If you’ve got all the physical tools, you have a brain or a mindset – what’s the word I’m looking for – tough but more than tough, you work and strain, you’re edgy, then let’s see where we can go. But you got to bring those two things to the table. It’s still up to the player. I’m responsible for hiring them. So I’m real fired up about them. Their strength is teaching and developing, okay? When you look at them to a man, that’s what they’ve done in their careers, they teach and develop. That’s what their background is. So now we have these other guys. But let’s not make a mistake here. It is the player himself. That’s who does this, the player.”
It seems like almost every player Trent picked is a project that won’t contribute right away other than on special teams. Would you agree with that?
“No. I mean, how do I honestly answer that question? There’s some guys here I think might. But I don’t want to say that they will. We got a room full of guys right now, and you haven’t been able to see us practice, we don’t have pads on, but there’s an edginess out there. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s going to roll over and say, here, take my job. This is a very competitive roster. It’s going to be very competitive, which is exciting. But the part about special teams, when we talk about developing, people always talk about do you develop players. When you’ve got your defensive backs, your linebackers, your wide receivers, your tight ends, your running backs, that skill set, a huge part of the development of those guys is special teams. Get them playing in space so they have to redirect. They’ve got to make plays on the ball in space. They’ve got to do all of those things in special teams. As they’re drilling it, working it and doing those things, they’re actually developing the skill set that they need to play offense or defense. That’s where we’re trying to take that with the younger guys in the special teams roles. That’s where we’re at. That’s how our special teams is built now. That’s the approach we have. That’s what we’re looking to do. Is that honest?”
Some armchair draft people like us would look at this team and say you lost two starting cornerbacks and two obviously important inside linebackers and those positions that went unaddressed in this draft. Trent talked about sticking to the board, getting the best player available. What is your stance on that in terms of taking the best player available versus finding players at positions of needs?
“I’ve got you. The draft process that I’ve gone through here, that I’ve watched, that I’ve learned from and have been a part of, did more learning than contributing this year, I’ll tell you that straight up. But the way the coaches staff and the personnel department worked together, the way I envisioned that happening was terrific. I mean, it was terrific up to the last picks. Coaches and scouts coming together, Trent coming out, getting the coaches that coach the position, everybody talking, having a conversation two picks before it’s going to happen, here’s where it’s at, here’s where it’s all laid out, all the way to that point, okay? I couldn’t have asked for anything better. The way this draft has been run, sitting in that chair and talking to Trent, I mean, it’s game day for him, okay? He is responsible for pulling that card off. I’m real glad he is because I’ve got a hell of a lot of confidence in him. I’m always looking for people to blink. That guy don’t blink. That part of it was terrific. The questions that he asks, Where do you want to go? We went with the board. The reasoning for going with the board, the way this happened and the way it went down, I really, really like. There were some corners lined up on the board, boom, then they went. Was there a linebacker or two as we were going through there, you’re four or five picks ahead, then they went, okay? But now instead of going somewhere else, you know, he just stayed on his deal. It was cool and smooth right across. Absolutely methodical. Plan your work, work your plan. There it was. Just really, really good.”
After this year, to you think you’ll be in position to contribute more next year?
“I was asked. Everybody was asked, the coaching staff. The way it’s going, I think it’s fantastic. I’m not going to sit and talk about draft strategy with you, I’ll tell you that right now. The rounds, the trades, the mathematical equations that get involved in it. I think I’d have to get out of coaching to do that, to be quite honest with you. I think I’d have to do that 365 days a year, to do that job as good as it needs to be done. I don’t know how I could do both, me personally.”
First four picks today there was obviously a developmental tight end, a guy that had an ACL and there’s a punter, you have punter Andy Lee. It seems to indicate you feel comfortable with the roster you had going into the draft.
You could afford to take risk or guys who maybe cannot contribute right away. Is that…
“Personally, I feel tremendous with the roster we have. I feel really good about the roster we have, and all positions. Some are not as deep as I’d like them to be, you know what I mean? I’d like a little more depth here. There’s a couple times in the last three days I was kind of hoping, don’t take that guy, because we could have put some depth in that spot. You know what I mean? But do I feel good? I feel fantastic about the roster, absolutely fantastic. And I feel fantastic about the competition that it’s layered with.”
What were the picks you wish went the other way?
“We’re not going there. And he’s got such a nice smile [laughter].”