As players take their final breaks before training camp, The Redskins Blog will take a look back at the new faces from this offseason and what we've learned about them, football and otherwise, so far.
Today we’ll focus on defensive line coach Jim Tomsula:
1. He enjoys working with the defensive line.
Before his position with the Redskins, Tomsula served as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for the 2015 season. From this experience, the he found that he was most comfortable directing the defense, rather than an entire team.
“Oh, I love coaching defensive line,” Tomsula said. “There is no secret to that, I mean that’s, you know, one thing in this world that made me figure out what you love. I mean that’s what I love, so I’m just extremely happy, humbled and excited to have the opportunity.”
Tomsula, not only passionate about coaching the defensive line, also appreciates the players he has to work with in his first season in Washington.
“Maybe this isn’t the most popular [position group] but they are to me,” Tomsula said. “They’re really a fun group to coach and I really am excited about what they’re doing. …D-line, you’ve got to be pretty smart for what we’re asking them to do, but they’re a bit nuts. It’s almost like the Muppets in there you know what I mean? And I’m a Muppet, so there it is.”
2. And the defensive line players like him, too.
The defense reciprocates Tomsula’s affection.
“Coach Tomsula is a great coach. He is one of the most unorthodox coaches I have ever had but he is a pretty good coach that brings a lot of experience,” defensive lineman Joey Mbu said.
Elaborating on the coach’s unconventional practices, Mbu explained that though Tomsula’s methods may be different, they are effective.
“We had a finance meeting the first day we were [at the Redskins’ facility],” Mbu said. “We literally took about half the meeting up talking about personal finances but we got football out of it, it’s so weird. It’s really interesting and I can’t wait to learn more from him, not only about football but more about life.”
3. He brings energy to Washington.
As a coach, Tomsula can utilize his infectious enthusiasm to motivate not only the defensive line, but the entire 90-man roster, rookies and veterans alike.
“He’s one of the most firey guys I’ve ever been around," said safety DeAngelo Hall said. "Just his mentality, hopefully some of that rubs off on our players… nobody’s more firey than Jim.”
Veteran defensive lineman Ziggy Hood also commented on the coach’s contagious spirit.
“Working with Tomsula, he’s bringing a lot of that San Francisco D [defense]… that high-caliber defense when they were on top,” Hood said. “and so he’s bringing that same energy, and giving it to us, and it seems to be paying off in practice.”
4. He had worked with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky before joining the Redskins.
When Tomsula was the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive line coach from 2007-14, Manusky was the team’s defensive coordinator for his first three seasons in San Francisco.
Though Manusky -- a former Redskins linebacker -- returned to Washington before Tomsula joined the staff, head coach Jay Gruden noted that the two defensive specialists proved to be a powerful duo.
“It just came down to the Manusky/Tomsula combo was very appealing to me, and Greg knowing the defensive players that we had, the system he ran kind of similarly in Indianapolis and San Francisco,” Gruden said. “But the experience of Jim Tomsula was huge.”
5. He doesn’t believe in depth charts.
Tomsula coaches on the premise that hard work, not rank, determines playing time.
“I’m not a depth chart guy, never been a depth chart guy,” Tomsula said. “A depth chart kind of takes care of itself and we don’t have shoulder pads on, so right now we’re seeing how guys fit and how they move and things like that and their assignments; they’re all kind of working together.”
From a player’s perspective, Mbu shares that Tomsula advises the team to ignore off-field factors that seem to influence an individual’s potential playing time.
“The one thing he tells us is you can’t get caught up in the hype,” Mbu said. “The best players will play is what he tells us. You can tell he means it and doesn’t care if you sign a $200 million contract or if you’re drafted first. If you’re not producing, you’re not going to play.”
The coach encourages his players to practice with intensity, disregarding standings, in order to perform as a comprehensive unit.
“I mean they’re all working together and it’s very easy to start counting numbers and figuring out where you are in the pecking order and all that stuff and they are not doing that,” Tomsula said. “I’ve asked them not to do that, they’re not doing that and they’re all working together and they’re working really hard at it. It’s a really fun group to coach.”
6. He has a new look.
When coaching the 49ers, Tomsula portrayed a distinct image, complete with a full figure and even fuller mustache. Now with a new team, the coach’s wife proposed a refreshed appearance.
"My wife said, 'Man, you look old and scraggly. Get that off,'" Tomsula said with a smile. "Her and her daughters. I said, 'Ok, let me shave that off.' She said, 'And by the way, you've been fat for 20 years. Lose some weight.' So I got on a diet and shaved my mustache. I'm not dyeing my hair though."
7. He lived in his car for a year.
In order to advance his coaching career, Tomsula embraced exceptional situations.
At the beginning of his professional pursuit, because he worked low-level jobs and volunteer coaching positions, Tomsula could only afford to live in his car. Then, during the operation of NFL Europe, he coached abroad for nine years, employed in various positions. After serving as head coach for the San Francisco 49ers, Tomsula discovered his true passion for coaching the defensive line.
Speaking to Tomsula’s preference, Gruden appreciates the coach’s dedication to his position.
“He’s a great teacher of the defensive line,” Gruden said. “That’s what he wants to do, he wants to coach defensive line. He had an opportunity to be a head coach, but he wants to be in the defensive line room.”