'The Muppets': Why Colorful, Quotable Cowboys Coach Jim Tomsula Likes His DT's 'Juicy'

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - There is something almost cartoonish about the Dallas Cowboys' new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula ... and yes, he's aware of that fun fact.

“I don’t know if anyone has done any research on me,'' he told a small media group on Monday here inside The Star. "But I’m not very good at (interviews) ... I sit here and I tell myself, ‘Don’t cuss, don’t cuss.’”

Mike McCarthy, the ninth head coach in Cowboys history as he takes over for Jason Garrett, tabbed Mike Nolan as his defensive coordinator. Together, they plucked Tomsula away from Washington, where he'd been the D-line coach, adding an assistant who has native Pittsburgh ties with McCarthy and 49ers ties with Nolan.

And, in Tomsula, a 51-year-old "ball guy'' who is quite a cut-up ... faring very well at interviews, thank you. Yes, he cussed a bit, speaking in that clipped Pittsburgh accent, waxing philosophically about wanting his defensive tackles to be "juicy'' ("energetic,'' I think he means) and about wishing to have a D-line deep enough to rotate fresh guys in.

"If everybody can play, everybody will play,'' he said before flashing back to a time when he was the head coach of the Niners when they lacked that sort of depth. "That crew in San Francisco, the first couple years, there was no rotation.

"I told them, 'If you tap your helmet (a sign for a player asking for a breather),' I'm turning my head.''

Tomsula as a "character''? I joked on the radio this week that he's a cross between Peter Falk's "Columbo'' and "Fred Flintstone,'' rumpled clothing covering up a stocky build and a scruffy lack of pretentiousness in terms of "personal style.'' He himself has joked that he's a "Muppet.''

"I like that the (defensive lineman) is a different kind of guy,'' he once said. "It's ... nuts. It's almost like 'The Muppets' in there. I'm a Muppet. So there it is.''

His 2015 work as the Niners head coach earned him a 5-11 record and a firing after one season. He gets credit for the fact that he was true to himself, though a couple of years ago, when he was hired in Washington, he took some advice from the three women in his life.

“My wife said, ‘Look, man. You look old and scraggly - get that off,’” Tomsula said. “Her (Julie) and the daughters (adults Britney and Brooke). I said, ‘Okay, let me shave that off.’ She said, ‘By the way, you’ve been fat for 20 years. Lose some weight.’ So I got on a diet and shaved my mustache.''

tomsula fam

Tomsula, still sans mustache, is a funny guy and a "tough guy,'' but our man John Owning of our Best Coast Boys podcast (and the Dallas Morning News) notes that maybe Tomsula is a bit more complex than that. Additionally, after a lengthy visit Monday, it's clear that his route into "big-time coaching'' has been no primrose path; along the way he's supported his family by working as everything from a firewood cutter to a doormat salesman.

His great-grandfather, a Hungarian immigrant, died in a Pennsylvania coal-mining accident. So it given familial struggles, it wasn't a burden to Jim when, once upon a time, he worked as a volunteer coach and lived in his car, along with his dog, his cat - and a litter box.)

Julie, Britney and Brooke are all involved in careers to help people, led by the efforts of his family (which also includes 12-year-old son Bear) in staging camps for kids dealing with Down syndrome.

“I feel bad when people talk about 'the grind of coaching',” Tomsula has said, a reminder to the listener of his famous Niners press-conference shout-out to "Joan in Accounting.'' “My people? They work. That’s all they know. And they weren’t working for a job they loved, just for the responsibility for their family. Growing up, I was always told never to let pride get in the way of a job.”