This is my Sunday column.
As the Seahawks took a 17-0 lead before halftime Thursday night, I remember thinking the 49ers seemed sluggish and unprepared. So, I asked the following question on Twitter: “Did the 49ers even practice this week, or did the players vote against it?”
I was joking. I assumed every week all teams practice, even the bad teams. Even the teams that play on Thursday. So, I didn’t ask Niners head coach Jim Tomsula about practice after the game. Practice seemed like a silly topic.
The next morning, Tomsula had another press conference. Other writers were asking questions as if there actually are things to look ahead to, as if this team isn’t as finished as a dead mackerel. Questions like, has Tomsula considered a quarterback change? Is Carlos Hyde’s foot OK? When will Jerome Simpson play?
After a reporter asked what the pulse of things was and Tomsula attempted an answer, I heard myself asking, “How much did your team practice this week?”
I was embarrassed I even asked the question, and expected Tomsula to say something short, like, “We practice as much as the collective bargaining agreement allows.” Then I was going to drop the subject.
But, amazingly, Tomsula got into it. Here’s what he said: “We did a walk-thru on Monday and then Tuesday we did about an hour-and-a-half on the field and then on Wednesday we did about 40 minutes on the field. But the tempo was way down. We didn’t work the timing things and the high-speed things. We just walked through the assignments. I mean, you’ve got to take care of the bodies.”
In other words, no, the Niners didn’t practice last week. They walked.
“Do you feel that was the right approach in retrospect?” I asked
“I do. Yes, sir.”
No offense to Tomsula, but that may be stupidest answer ever in the entire history of stupid answers. Let’s break it down.
Tomsula said he wanted to “take care of the bodies.” For what, next week? There is no next week. The Niners’ record is 2-5. They’re not going to the playoffs. Thursday night was a do-or-die game for San Francisco and Seattle, and Tomsula’s team died.
Now, he’s through as a head coach. He failed. He’s a lame-duck who will get fired, maybe during the season. But, hey – at least his team is well-rested. Under him, the Niners are the freshest awful team in the NFL. That’s his legacy.
Clearly, Tomsula has no idea how to prepare a team for a Thursday night game, to prepare a team in three days, a necessary skill for an NFL coach. If he ever coaches another Thursday game, here’s a helpful tip: players have to practice. They have to run. Running is good.
Last week, Tomsula should have made his practice-squad players run as fast they could during practice. That way, the starters could have prepared for the pace at which Seattle plays. Seattle plays at a fast pace on offense. This is no mystery. Seattle’s pace is known. Did Tomsula know?
But, the Niners were totally unprepared for Seattle’s speed of play, speed of rushing to the line of scrimamge, and couldn’t match the Seahawks’ tempo in the first half. That’s why San Francisco lost. The score was 17-0 before they even woke up.
They played much better in the second half, holding the Seahawks to just three points. If the Niners had played that way the whole game, they might have won.
We used to think Mike Singletary was the worst coach in 49ers franchise history, maybe in NFL history. He had no concept of schematics or offensive football.
But he could prepare a team for a game. He could tell players to run. The Niners played hard under him and showed up for games awake and alert, ready for game speed.
As head coach of the Niners, Singletary’s record was 18-22. Not good, but not bad, either.
Tomsula would have to coach the rest of his life to win 18 games.
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.