Coaching changes, personnel changes, retirements, suspensions, cuts, free-agent departures – this was quite an offseason for the San Francisco 49ers. Lots of transition, lots of turnover.
What does the future hold for San Francisco? What is the feeling in the locker room?
“They’ve had a lot of draft picks in the last several years, and it’s now going to be a matter of (whether) some of these draft picks are going to pan out,” San Francisco Chronicle 49ers beat writer Eric Branch said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “A guy like Carlos Hyde was a second-round pick a couple years ago. He’s going to step into Frank Gore’s place. There’s a lot of examples of that throughout the roster. These guys might be good. Carlos Hyde might be a 1,000-yard back, but he’s never done it. That’s a big difference. The 49ers’ roster in past years has generally up and down been proven guys – maybe not always stars, but proven veterans – and now there’s a fair amount of young guys who have to show they’re deserving of being a first- or second-round pick.”
The 49ers will need them to be. Patrick Willis (retirement), Justin Smith (retirement) and Gore (Colts) were pivotal players and personalities in the Bay Area for a long time. They produced on the field, and they were leaders in the locker room.
And now they’re all gone.
Throw in a new head coach in Jim Tomsula, and it’s safe to say that the culture in San Francisco will be decidedly different from what it was these past few years under Jim Harbaugh.
“When you have a new coach, it’s always better, right?” Branch said. “(People say), ‘We like this new regime better,’ (but) when you start 0-4, maybe the tone of the locker room changes. That being said, I do think Jim Tomsula has brought kind of a needed breath of fresh air. Jim Harbaugh, as (has been) so well-documented, is ultra-competitive, and I think he grinded some of these guys down. Just long meetings, long days. These guys, generally the last meeting of training camp in past years, they’d be getting out of the facility at 9:30. Now it’s more like 6:30.
“Tomsula, you hear it all the time,” Branch continued. “He’s a players’ coach, he cares about the guys, he really wants to get to know them, etc., etc. We’ve all heard that. And maybe I’m naive, but this (appears) to be really genuine with him. Now, does that mean he’s going to be Vince Lombardi and they’re going to be in the playoffs? Not necessarily. But I do think that can go a long way. Talent always helps, so we’ll see about that.”