INDIANAPOLIS – One of the winners of the NFL Scouting Combine has been new 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, whose tenure got off to a shaky public unveiling last month in Santa Clara.
Tomsula had a near-disastrous introductory press conference and appearance on Yahoo! SportsTalk Live, which provided fodder for a Jimmy Kimmel monologue.
But on Thursday, Tomsula fought off a cough to deliver a well-paced Q&A session in front of the national media that was more consistent with his reputation as down-to-earth and folksy.
Tomsula opened his media gathering with a reference to his first press conference. “Let’s try this again,” he quipped.
Tomsula made the rounds with other media appearances, and by all accounts made favorable impressions. With that issue addressed and out of the way, Tomsula will be judged solely on his coaching results.
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--St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he was surprised by Jim Harbaugh’s departure from the 49ers, but he has heard good things about Tomsula.
“I have respect for what coach Tomsula has done there up front,” Fisher said on Friday. “I don’t know him very well personally, but everyone I talk to thinks he’s an outstanding coach. When things went down out there, I was a little surprised. I don’t have the information or the background, so I don’t know what happened. But his record speaks for itself. Coach Harbaugh did an outstanding job, and it was a challenge for us to prepare for them.”
--The Carolina Panthers last month denied the 49ers’ request to interview Pete Hoener for the job of tight ends/assistant head coach, sources told CSNBayArea.com. Hoener coached 49ers tight ends from 2005 and 2010. He is the person many insiders consider most responsible for turning around Vernon Davis’ career. Hoener has been the Panthers’ tight ends coach since 2011. The 49ers hired former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano to coach tight ends.
The 49ers were blocked from interviewing three other candidates for Tomsula’s staff: Offensive coordinator candidates Rob Chudzinski (Indianapolis) and Bob Bicknell (Philadelphia), and defensive coordinator candidate Vance Joseph (Cincinnati).
--The 49ers want to re-sign running back Frank Gore, general manager Trent Baalke reiterated. But at what price? One NFL executive believes a fair price for Gore is $3 million. He made $6.45 million in both of the past two seasons with the 49ers. After four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, it’s doubtful Gore believes he should accept such a large pay reduction. The word is that the Indianapolis Colts are interested, and Gore views joining Andrew Luck in the backfield as a legitimate option if he can’t reach a deal to return to the 49ers.
--The NFL executive believes guard Mike Iupati will command the most money among the 49ers scheduled free agents. His team is prepared to go as high as $7 million annually but said he believes Iupati is likely to receive an $8 million-or-higher offer from another club. Another source said the 49ers might not go higher than right tackle Anthony Davis’ $6.52 million average due to the team’s salary structure.
--The 49ers might have been preparing for the possible loss of Iupati with their selection of Brandon Thomas in the third round of last year’s draft. Thomas’ stock likely dropped one round when he sustained a clean ACL tear during a predraft workout.
This is what Baalke said on the topic of drafting for need one year before there’s a need:
“You’re always trying to stay ahead of the curve, especially at certain positions. Running backs can come into the league and, generally, you put them out there and they can function. Offensive linemen, that’s a little hit or miss. Generally speaking, the younger offensive linemen have a difficult time transitioning to the NFL game, from a strength standpoint and technique standpoint. So you try to stay ahead of the curve as much as you can at certain positions. That’s just the philosophy we have.”
--An NFL team executive said his team has wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the $4 million to $5 million range, but he admitted his club might be undervaluing him compared to other NFL teams. The 49ers were scheduled to meet with Eugene Parker, Crabtree’s agent, while in town for the combine. Crabtree is expected to reach the open market.
--Agents were told on Friday that the latest projection is for a $10 million salary-cap increase to $143 million per team for the 2015 season.
--Northern Illinois wide receiver Da’Ron Brown caught 114 passes for 1,817 yards and 15 touchdowns over his final two college seasons. He credits 49ers’ 2014 first-round draft Jimmie Ward with helping him get in position to be a potential draft pick. Ward, a safety and nickel back, and Brown often went up against each other in practices.
“Competing against Jimmie Ward, you might want to be ready every time you step up,” Brown said. “He’s not going to take a play off, so neither are you. Be at your best. Iron sharpens iron. So just having that competitive edge and mentality against him.”