This is my Saturday column.
Wednesday, 8:14 a.m.
I get a phone call from the San Francisco 49ers’ vice president of communications. Not expecting the call. Never got a call from him this early in the morning. Hmmm.
I pick up the phone. The V.P. says he wants to give me a heads up Jim Tomsula won’t make his 10:30 a.m. Wednesday press conference. The V.P. says he’s telling me so I won’t drive down, wait around and waste my time. He values my time.
I say something like, “What’s the issue with Tomsula?”
The V.P. says, “It’s a family issue — please don’t dig into it. Please respect his family” — or something to that effect.
I say I will. I believe the V.P. He says, “Thanks, brother” — direct quote — and hangs up.
Cut to Thursday night, 9:18 p.m.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News tweets this: “Getting word about some possible massive chaos in the 49ers front office. Massive.”
11:12 pm. Kyle McLorg, who broke the story of Colin Kaepernick’s benching a few weeks ago, tweets this: “Tomsula was a no show at the facility yesterday as a result of a growing discord with (49ers team president) Paraag Marathe.”
Hmmm. If true, this could mean the V.P. of communications misled me — unless of course when he said Tomsula was dealing with a family issue, he actually was referring to the 49ers’ family.
11:18 p.m. McLorg tweets, “I’m told 49ers PR was instructed to stay mum about Tomsula’s absence.”
11:30 p.m. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports Marathe has been reassigned, reports he won’t be the team president after the Super Bowl. Marathe, who used to be in charge of football analytics and the team’s day-to-day business operations, now is in charge of “outside business ventures,” like some soccer team in Sacramento.
11:35 p.m. McLorg tweets, “I’m told a significant bone of contention between Marathe and Tomsula was analytics.”
Cut to Friday morning. I’m sitting front and center for Tomsula’s press conference, which is scheduled to begin at 10:45. Tomsula marches in roughly 15 minutes late.
Maiocco asks Tomsula the first question about Marathe: “Do you have any reaction to the news of yesterday that Marathe would have a different role within the — ?”
“(The 49ers’ V.P. of communications) was just briefing me on that on our way here from the deal,” Tomsula says. “No, I don’t have any. I don’t have any knowledge. I don’t have any comment. I don’t have anything. (The V.P.) didn’t even tell me if it was a rumor or a fact. It’s an article or something. So, no, I don’t have any clue.”
Tomsula says all of this with a straight face, as if expecting us to believe he had heard about Marathe’s demotion just then and didn’t know whether the report was true.
Jim, we don’t believe you.
Shortly after the press conference, the V.P. of communications gives the media a copy of a memo 49ers CEO Jed York wrote and sent to team employees Friday morning.
“By now I am sure most of you have seen reports of some transition in our front office,” York wrote, “and I apologize that we were unable to communicate with you directly prior to certain information reaching the media. Our original intent was to formalize the transition following the Super Bowl.”
Back to the press conference. I say, “Jim, a report came out today that you didn’t show up Wednesday morning due to friction with Marathe. Is that true?”
“That is absolutely false,” Tomsula says, “and I was at work. What day was that? What day did this happen?” Totally serious, as if he expects us to believe he doesn’t remember leaving the facility and missing his press conference just two days ago.
“Wednesday — OK,” Tomsula says. “So, between 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m, I drove through the gate. I was late for practice this week. I got there for the team periods. But, I have not missed a day of work.”
Oh, he remembers leaving the facility all of a sudden. Apparently, he returned in the afternoon during the portion of practice when the media isn’t allowed to watch. Sure, Jim.
I say, “A report also came out that you and Paraag butted heads on the topic of analytics.”
“Absolutely false. Un-true,” he says, drawing out the last word to show he really means it.
Jim, we don’t believe you. The following imaginary scene is more believable than your story.
Imaginary scene: Some time after Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, Marathe tells Tomsula the 49ers would have won if he had just done that thing Marathe told him to do based on statistical analysis. Tomsula flips, goes to Jed and says, “Let Paraag coach the team if he’s so smart. I’m gone.”
Tomsula storms out of the facility, and York has to choose between the football guy and the analytics guy. York chooses the football guy, then orders the V.P. of communications to call the beat writers and tell them Tomsula is away from the facility dealing with a family issue.
Then, my phone rings.
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.