Dallas Cowboys fans are excited about the coaching changes this offseason as the team will feature a new head coach for the first time in a decade. While Mike McCarthy generates all the attention, his coaching hires are worthy of excitement in their own right. The team has added a lot of experience to their coaching staff, which is a contrast to many of the young guys Jason Garrett had working under him. One guy in particular that should make Cowboys fans giddy is defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
Tomsula brings 27 years of coaching the defensive line position to the Cowboys. He started out with seven years coaching in college, most of that was with Charleston Southern. He then spent nine years coaching defensive lines in Europe. He started his NFL coaching career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2007 where he joined his current defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who was the 49ers head coach back then.
Tomsula lasted nine seasons with San Francisco, surviving three head coaching changes that included the firing of Nolan, Mike Singletary, and Jim Harbaugh. He served as the team’s interim coach in 2010, and was hired on as the 49ers head coach in 2015. During that season, the 49ers had a middle of the road defense, but the offense was dreadful, finishing dead last in the league in points scored. The 49ers went 5-11 and Tomsula was fired after one season. San Francisco’s defense nose-dived the following year as they finished dead last in points allowed and went 2-14 on the season.
Over the last three years, Tomsula has been coaching the defensive line in Washington. The Redskins haven’t been good in that span as they’ve had three-straight losing seasons and just recently parted with with Jay Gruden in his coaching staff. That meant Tomsula suddenly became available, and McCarthy pounced on the opportunity to get him coaching the Cowboys defensive line.
Tomsula is well respected around the league as a great position coach. The attention to detail he has in establishing leverage and using your hands effectively has translated into success of several of the players he’s coached. He focuses on working the right angles, annihilating the protection, and is an authority on pass rushing fundamentals that has enabled his groups to perform at a high level.
Today, we wanted to highlight four important pieces of information that should get fans hyped up about him joining the Cowboys coaching staff.
No. 1 - In EACH of his last nine seasons as defensive line coach, his team has had more sacks than the Cowboys
It’s no secret that the Cowboys haven’t been all that great at getting to the quarterback in recent years. Over the last nine seasons, only twice have they finished in the top 10 in sacks. So, it’s not any huge accomplishment to finish ahead of the Cowboys in that category, but what about in nine times in a row?
Here are the sack rankings for the Cowboys vs. Tomsula’s team over the past nine seasons he’s been the defensive line coach:
What is impressive about this stat is that not only does it show a level of consistency from Tomsula’s squad, but it specifically highlights this one element of the defense that can be separated from the overall success of the team. For example, the Cowboys as a team have been better than the Redskins, finishing with more wins in each of the three seasons where Tomsula was there. Even the Cowboys defense as a whole was better than Washington, allowing fewer points in each of those seasons. But regardless of how much better the Cowboys were, the Redskins still out-sacked them... and so did the 49ers in each of those seasons above where Tomsula was their defensive line coach. While it takes a village to make a winning football team, we can safely say - Tomsula is doing his part.
No. 2 - Tomsula makes good players great
It’s really hard to fathom that the Cowboys had DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn on the defensive line and still managed to have seven fewer sacks than the Redskins last season. This isn’t to say that players like Matthew Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, or DaRon Payne aren’t quality players. It’s just saying that when it comes to getting after the quarterback - clearly, the Redskins have done a better job.
That aspect has traveled with Tomsula everywhere he goes. Most people know all about the awesomeness of Aldon Smith when he played for Tomsula in San Francisco. Smith’s 19.5 sacks in 2012 was phenomenal. But he wasn’t the only Smith that flourished under Tomsula’s tutelage. Former Cincinnati Bengals pass rusher Justin Smith’s career took off when he arrived in San Francisco. He went from just two sacks in his last year with the Bengals to seven sacks in his first year with the 49ers. In fact, during his seven years working with Tomsula, Smith produced five straight Pro Bowl seasons, including two All-Pro honors.
Even more impressive, that five-year stretch of awesomeness all occurred after the age of 30. That just so happens to be Aldon Smith’s age right now, so if anyone is wondering if that ship has already sailed, keep that little nugget of info in the back of your mind.
No. 3 - Great players have meant great seasons
Even though Tomsula gets the most of his unit, that hasn’t always translated to team success. It takes a collective group of talent to win in this league. The good news is, when he’s had that talent, the team has been exceptional. During his last six seasons as the defensive line coach in San Francisco, this happened:
When the talent is there, his squad had done great things. The Cowboys have a pretty good defensive squad, so it should be very interesting to see what their new defensive line coach gets out of them.
No. 4 - He’s good against the run, too
Sacks are great, but they’re not everything that makes a good defense. Stopping the run is also important. During the time Tomsula was coaching the 49ers defensive line, his squad allowed the second fewest rushing yards per carry. He didn’t have that type of success with Washington, but whose to say he wouldn’t get there. The Redskins have invested in two first-round defensive tackles in recent years with Jonathan Allen and DaRon Payne. Both those players were on the rise under Tomsula. So, when the Cowboys brought over a couple former first-rounders themselves with Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, that tells you where their mind is at.
Getting after the quarterback is great, but stopping the run is a must as well. The Cowboys were 8-8 last season, but check out this breakdown:
- Win/loss record when the defense allowed 100 yards or less: 5-1
- Win/loss record in games where the defense allowed more than 100 yards: 3-7
Stop the run, please.