A disastrous season in San Francisco, which feels even worse than the 4-11 record the team carries into the finale against the Rams, is expected to result in one major change. But not two.
Per a league source, G.M. Trent Baalke is expected to return. Coach Jim Tomsula is expected to be fired.
If Tomsula goes, the one-and-done will represent a significant embarrassment for the organization. Tomsula was the hand-picked replacement for Jim Harbaugh, an eight-year member of the staff whom they knew better than any team ever knows a head-coaching candidate.
But the 49ers need to do something in order to placate a fan base that has quickly become disgusted with the direction of the organization. More and more empty seats are seen at games, and more and more fans have taken owner Jed York up on his offer to be held accountable for a failure to win championships.
Firing Tomsula could actually cause those voices to become even louder, with the team’s reliance on a guy who was clearly in over his head from the get go giving fans plenty of ammunition for arguing that York, too, is in over his head.
York and Baalke will have a chance to reverse that perception, but they’ll need to make a big splash in order to regain confidence and trust. Chip Kelly becomes an intriguing possibility, in the event that the 49ers hope to try to resurrect the imploding career of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren has continuously expressed interest in the job, and he has the kind of track record that could make the fan base believe that things will turn around. Holmgren has a proven track record when it comes to spotting and developing quarterbacks, with guys like Brett Favre, Matthew Hasselbeck, and Mark Brunell all in Green Bay during Holmgren’s time there. (Holmgren also had Kurt Warner in the building, but that was several years before he developed into the guy no one ever thought he would be.)
A solid relationship between York and Baalke is expected to give the five-year G.M. a sixth season — and a third head-coaching hire. Most General Managers get to hire two coaches at most; it’s hard not to think that Baalke’s long-term future hinges on getting this hire right.