SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden set out to find former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula and talk to him about the Redskins' opening for a defensive line coach, Gruden ran into something of a problem. He couldn't locate Tomsula.
The Niners fired Tomsula after one 5-11 season in 2015. From there, Tomsula vanished from the public eye and was even difficult to track down for head coaches who might want to bring him back into the league.
"It wasn't easy, it was not easy, I will tell you that," Gruden said. "He's not the guy that's going to call you right back after a call, either. I had to wait a little while and be a little patient but finally he called and [we] flew him up here and had a great conversation with him and we did what we could to get him."
That conversation has already turned out to be an important one in what Washington is trying to build defensively. When Gruden sought out Tomsula, he was actually already in the market for a defensive coordinator. Washington interviewed multiple candidates for that post, but Gruden had already decided he wanted Tomsula to coach his defensive line.
With some additional prodding from then-general manager Scot McCloughan, who had worked with Tomsula in San Francisco, Tomsula eventually decided to hop on board. Gruden promoted Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator.
"I was interviewing defensive coordinators for the job, I interviewed quite a few of them and Coach Tomsula was on my radar to coach defensive line, so I called him before I hired a defensive coordinator and wanted to see if he was interested in coaching again because you just never know," Gruden said. "He was really excited to work with Coach Manusky so it was kind of a package deal there. I was fortunate to get Coach Manusky and obviously very fortunate to get Coach Tomsula because he has our defensive linemen playing at a much higher level than before."
Indeed, Tomsula's influence on the defensive line in Washington has been quick and significant. Known for his passion and workmanlike approach during his eight seasons coaching the defensive line in San Francisco, Tomsula has brought similar traits to the Redskins.
During those eight years, the 49ers consistently had one of the best defenses in the league and were second in the league in rushing yards allowed per attempt (3.72). Through five weeks this season, the Redskins are giving up 3.94 yards per rushing attempt, down from 4.53 last year and 4.83 the year before. In addition, Washington is seventh in the league in sacks per pass attempt at 9.1 percent.
Of course, not all of that can be attributed to Tomsula -- the Redskins spent a first-round pick on talented lineman Jonathan Allen -- but there's no denying his impact.
This week, the 49ers will have to deal with Tomsula's retooled and vastly improved front when the teams meet at FedEx Field.
"We've got some newcomers now with Jonathan Allen and obviously some other players that we have ... those guys have done an excellent job," Gruden said. "Coach Tomsula has been a big help in our defensive front."