From the new head coach to the young players stepping into major roles, from the injury woes of NaVorro Bowman to the personal life of Aldon Smith, the San Francisco 49ers enter 2015 with a lot of question marks.
Sure, there are a few things about this team that you don’t have to worry about – like Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin – but there are a lot more things you do have to worry about. That’s the way it seems, anyway.
“I agree entirely,” Sacramento Bee 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “And that’s why (when) people are asking me, hey, how do you think this team is going to do this year record-wise, it’s so hard to predict. It’s hard to predict any year, but this year it can swing so wildly from 3-13 to, I don’t know, 11-5. There’s still talent on this team, but you’re right. No team has type the turnover that the 49ers have had. No team in recent memory has had that type of turnover – and we’re not just talking about the roster; we’re talking about the coaching staff as well. So it’s one thing after another. There’s a lot of young talent now that Trent Baalke, the GM, has been accumulating over the years. He always has at least 10, 11, sometimes 12 draft picks per draft, and that’s put a lot of young talent on this roster. All of a sudden, those young guys are going to be in the spotlight, and we really haven’t seen a lot from each of them.”
Such as Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie last season. Hyde will become the starter, as incumbent Frank Gore signed with the Colts after spending a decade in the Bay Area.
“(Hyde is) one of several, young, talented players who are going to have a major role this year,” Barrows said. “Up and down the defensive line, up and down the offensive line, at cornerback, maybe inside linebacker – all of those positions – young guys are going to have to step up, and that’s why this season is really such a huge question mark right now.”
Which is why 49ers owner Jed York probably shouldn’t have likened Tomsula to Steve Kerr, who led the Golden State Warriors to an NBA championship in his rookie season.
“That’s certainly setting the expectations sky high, obviously,” Barrows said. “I’m not sure the owner wanted to put that onus on him, but that’s the analogy that he made. To answer your question, I think our insiders – people who really, really follow the team closely around here – would have know who Jim Tomsula is. He’s been with the team since 2007. He’s very charismatic, so anytime you watch a video – sort of a sideline, miced-up segment on the 49ers – they invariably have used Jim Tomsula because he’s so gregarious. He’s almost like a cartoon character on the sideline. I mean, he’s very animated (and) full of energy.”
Harbaugh could be animated and full of energy, too, but it was different. He sequestered media to a specific part of the field during training camp and barred them from practice. He could be grouchy with reporters. He would stonewall them about injuries. Barrows said Harbaugh could be charismatic and full of anecdotes on some days but that talking to him was usually like “trying to interview a fire hydrant.”
“If you want to know who Jim Tomsula is and what he stands for, he’s the polar opposite of Jim Harbaugh,” Barrows said. “It’s like when you break up with a longtime girlfriend or boyfriend, the rebound guy or gal is the polar opposite of the guy that you went out with. This is Jim Tomsula. He’s super nice, he’s super easy to get along with. Like I said, he’s gregarious. A lot of things Jim Harbaugh rubbed people the wrong way with, Jim Tomsula is the opposite. I’m not saying that to pump up Jim Tomsula or to knock down Jim Harbaugh, but that’s the reality of it. In a lot of ways, they went with the polar opposite of the last guy.”