SANTA CLARA -- When the 49ers were eliminated from the NFC playoff race a year ago with one game remaining in the season, team president Jed York fired coach Mike Singletary and promoted defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to the position of interim coach.The fun returned for the 49ers in the final week of the 2010 season with Tomsula in charge. The 49ers finished with a 38-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Tomsula's NFL head-coaching career consists of a 1-0 record.A couple weeks later, new coach Jim Harbaugh decided to retain Tomsula on his staff. Tomsula originally joined the 49ers in 2007 when Mike Nolan hired him. Tomsula spent the previous season as head coach of the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe."I have gratitude to Jim Harbaugh," Tomsula said on Monday during an hour-long sitdown with reporters. "What I appreciate right now, I think what the guys appreciate, is coach Harbaugh, these guys who came in and what they're doing and how they're doing it."I'm not reflecting on the past. I'm talking about the present and the way they're doing it and the structure, the environment. Here it is. Look what's happen. It's everybody doing it together and everybody's really working hard to do it. And I don't think you have anybody jumping out front and beating their chest." Tomsula said he always knew the nucleus of the 49ers was good enough -- and comprised of the right kind of people -- to have this kind of season. The 49ers have won the NFC West with a 10-2 record.Here is what Tomsula had to say about that:"I'm not lying when I tell you this. You're going to think this is a fairy tale, coach-speak, and it's not. Last year when we all talked and I kept saying, 'Look, it really is a great locker room. They really are great guys.' Everybody was looking at me . . . and I know you took it easy on me. And I appreciated it. What I'm saying is, it's hard to defend a record and talk about the kind of guys. And I tried to not defend the record but also say, 'Look, it's right here. It's here.' These guys, I've never had that problem. Never had that problem. I'd sit in that meeting room. I had the outside 'backers, defensive line and the inside 'backers, and we'd get up there and start going through all the run fits and going through all the stuff. And that was three, four years, and we're struggling . . ."Patrick Willis isn't playing any harder today than he did the first day he got here. Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, Parys Haralson . . . They've played that hard. They've worked that hard. I can't tell you all of a sudden there's this dramatic increase on how hard they're working for something or how much time they're spending in the meeting room. The thing that I've always appreciated about these guys -- because I've been in other places where I'm sitting at home at night trying to figure out in my brain, 'How can I work an angle tomorrow? I got to bring people together. I got to get this right.' And that's part of what we do. You got to keep it together when it's starting to fray and identify. And, honestly, I can tell you with this group, it hasn't been that way. We've had some struggles offensively in some games over the past four years, and defensively the guys are winning or losing a 9-6 game. I can't tell you that I've ever been on the sideline where somebody is going, 'Geez, I wish the offense would get it going.' Or, 'Geez, what are we doing with that?' Haven't had it. Now, do we talk about it all the time? Yeah? Because if you take care of the team, the team will take care of you. And that's where we leave it and that's understood."What I appreciate it is they've stuck together through it. They persevered and they did it right. They did it right. I'm just speaking for my guys. They did it right, and now you see where this goes. That's what I feel best about." Singletary picked Troy Smith to start at quarterback for the must-win game last year. The following week, Tomsula chose Alex Smith to make the start. Tomsula explained why he wanted Alex Smith at quarterback for his one game as an NFL head coach:"That's the kind of guy I want my daughter to marry. I think he's got it, in terms of a man. He's a solid guy, a hard-working guy. He knows right from wrong. He gets it. He's that kind of guy."To me, this whole thing boils down to people first. You get the right people. Let's first make our separations on the right people. And, now, let's take the talent they have and work with the talent on the depth chart. But we got to get the people first. How many really, really, really talented guys aren't playing in the NFL who don't have it together? Or how many really, really talented guys go from team to team? It's got to be the guy first. It's who he is."Alex Smith . . . he is a heck of a guy. I don't think he wavers on who he is, whether good or bad, tough spot. Alex is a guy who knows who he is. I got a lot of respect for him."
There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.
The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.
Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.
Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.
The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.
Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:
"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.
"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."
The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.
But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.
Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.
Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.
The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.
Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.
Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.
The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.
On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.
In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.
If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.
On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.
Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.
But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.
Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?
Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.
“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.
“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”
And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”
In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.