Two years ago, it appeared as if Adam Gase would be hired to replace Jim Harbaugh as 49ers head coach.
But on a day in which Gase was hopeful of receiving good news, he heard from then-general manager Trent Baalke that Jim Tomsula had gotten the job.
Gase, who recently completed his first season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, spoke candidly Wednesday on CSNBayArea.com’s “49ers Insider Podcast” to set the record straight on what occurred in mid-January 2015.
At the beginning of Gase's first interview with Baalke, 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe, and co-chair John York, it was made clear to him that Baalke was responsible for the decision.
“I knew that Trent was the final decision-maker in San Francisco heading into the interview process,” Gase said. “When we first met, when it was all four in there, that was explained to me from the get-go, that Trent ran the organization, as far as who’s getting hired for the head-coaching job. I knew that going in.”
Gase went through a second marathon interview with only Baalke, the day before the decision was made, he recalled.
“I felt like I was in good position heading into that next day,” Gase said. “I did know it was down to two of us. . . It was down to Jim and myself. I felt like going into that morning, I had a good shot. I felt like my interview went really well. But until you get that call from the GM, nothing’s ever 100 percent.
“So heading into that morning, I felt good about it. But never got that final word. The last call I got was they hired Jim. I really felt we had a great meeting and felt that I was in a good position. It went the other way.”
Next season, the 49ers will have their fourth head coach in four years. Tomsula was fired at the end of a 5-11 season. The 49ers fired Baalke and coach Chip Kelly after the club’s 2-14 season. The club is now expected to announce Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as head coach after the Falcons’ season has concluded.
Things have worked out well for Gase, who spent one season as Chicago’s offensive coordinator before earning the Miami job. The Dolphins went 10-6 in Gase’s first season and advanced to the playoffs for just the second time in the past 15 seasons.
Gase said he was never offered the 49ers job two years ago. And when asked if he was told he had to promote Tomsula as defensive coordinator, Gase answered, “I don’t remember that being a conversation. We spit-balled a lot of different scenarios of how we were going about putting a staff together.”
Gase said he would have been inclined to retain a number of 49ers assistant coaches from Jim Harbaugh’s final staff because he already knew some of those individuals.
“It’s not as easy to get coaches as you think, because guys get locked into contracts," Gase said. "I was always told when I went into these interviews, ‘Don’t promise something you can’t come through with.’ Because you can’t control some of these things. You kind of have to have an idea of who’s available to get out of their contract or who’s up on their contracts.
“It looked like there were going to be some holdovers based on the relationships I had with a lot of those guys. It was really just trying to figure out what was the best fit for the entire group at that time.”
In a conference call with Bay Area reporters prior to the Dolphins’ November game against the 49ers, Gase confirmed Tomsula offered him the position of offensive coordinator with the 49ers. Gase turned it down to work with his previous head coach, John Fox, with the Bears.
Gase said one of the elements of working for the 49ers that attracted him to the job was the opportunity to reconnect with Jed York and Marathe, whom he got to know during his season as an assistant coach in 2008.
“I wanted to find a way to be a part of what they had really got going on there,” Gase said. “The main reason was because of Jed. I wanted to do whatever I could to help him. And felt like he knew I’d be invested in that organization because between Jed and Paraag, my relationship with them was really good with them when I was there previously. That’s why I was heavily interested in getting that job because I wanted to do something to help those guys. With them there, that was very positive for me.”