SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco team president and CEO Jed York is turning to his uncle, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., for advice on how to fix the underachieving franchise.
DeBartolo will serve as a consultant in the process of finding a general manager, and York also plans to talk to Patriots president Jonathan Kraft about what works so well for New England. Only after a GM is in place will a new coach be hired, and there's no timetable. Jim Tomsula will coach the 49ers for all of a week, and his bosses have said they expect him to win.
The promoted defensive line coach took charge of the downtrodden team Monday, a day after the 49ers fired Mike Singletary late Sunday upon returning to team headquarters following a 25-17 loss at St. Louis that eliminated San Francisco from playoff contention. Also fired were pass rush specialist coach Al Harris and inside linebackers coach Vantz Singletary, the former coach's nephew.
York said he had considered the coaching change in recent weeks.
"Obviously we had expectations of being a playoff-caliber team this year. Whether we were a 7-9 division winner or not didn't matter to me," York said. "I wanted to make sure that the San Francisco 49ers had an opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl, which I felt like we had every expectation to do that. When that was not realized, I wanted to make sure we were setting ourselves up for the remainder of the season but more importantly for next season. And when we look at next season, there are a lot of things that are uncertain — the labor issues. I'm not sure when our players are going to be back next season, so I wanted to make sure we didn't have a coaching turnover, coaching change going into that."
San Francisco (5-10), which hasn't had a winning record since its last trip to the postseason in 2002, finishes the season at home Sunday against last-place Arizona.
"We're going to win. Let me make that clear," Tomsula said. "That was something we talked about this morning. Jed's made that very clear. Trent Baalke's made it very clear — very, very crystal clear."
The 49ers missed the playoffs for the eighth straight season despite being the popular favorite before the season to win the awful NFC West. They couldn't recover from an 0-5 start, the franchise's worst since losing seven straight to begin a 2-14 season in 1979 — the late Hall of Famer Bill Walsh's first year as coach.
York said he has already begun pursuing potential GM candidates and could do some interviews later this week. The 49ers have been without a general manager since the abrupt departure of Scot McCloughan in March, which York called a "mutual parting." McCloughan wound up with the division-rival Seahawks.
Baalke, who has led the team's football operations as vice president of player personnel, will be considered for the job — though other experienced NFL executives out of work probably on York's list are Randy Mueller and Tim Ruskell. If Carolina fires GM Marty Hurney, he could be another person of interest.
"I'm going to try and knock out as many people as we can this week and open it up even further as we go into next week," York said. "I think it's important to get somebody that's the right fit for the 49ers. I think we want to make sure that we look at as many people as we possibly can to come to that right conclusion."
After York picks a general manager, he said that person will have all the say in who is hired as coach. When Singletary was promoted and had the interim tag stripped from his title in the locker room after a season-ending win over the Redskins in 2008, York was criticized for rushing into the choice. Singletary was all of 5-4 as a head coach after taking over two months earlier from the fired Mike Nolan.
York acknowledged there could be some coaches who aren't retained by their teams who the Niners might consider after the season, including Houston's Gary Kubiak and the Titans' Jeff Fisher.
"There are a lot of coaches that are on the street right now that are potential candidates for us. And I think there are a lot of guys that are coordinators that have been successful, so there's a broad array," York said. "But that's not me putting that list together. Our general manager is going to put that list together."
Tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore both said they were surprised Singletary didn't get to finish the season. Singletary, who helped mold Davis into a captain and Pro Bowler, is still owed $5 million for the two years remaining on his contract. The Hall of Fame linebacker was 18-22 during his two-plus seasons.
"It's a business, and the guys upstairs make the decision," Davis said. "I'm very confident about the way things are moving. Going forward, we have a lot to look forward to. Jed York and the rest of the guys upstairs, they want to do everything they can to put us in the best situation possible. And I believe in them, I trust them. I've trusted them since the first day I walked in here. So I'm happy about being here. I'm excited about the upcoming season. But this year has been pretty frustrating."