The Niners aren't better on paper, though, after losing running back Frank Gore and watching star inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retire within six days of each other. The team also waved farewell to two starting corners, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox, in free agency, while waiting to find out if Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Smith will call it quits before September.
Boldin peered beyond San Francisco's firestorm of departures -- including the loss of coach Jim Harbaugh -- to prop up the potential of Tomsula.
"I've always thought he was very energetic," Boldin said. "I thought he was very detailed in what he did and how he coached the defensive line. And he was a guy who let them play but had parameters built in. He communicated well with the defensive line. Everybody who played for him, they busted their butt for him. He went to bat for his players, so that's something you're excited about."
Said Boldin: "I think he'll do well as a head coach because I think he deals with different personalities that guys bring to the table, he deals with that quite well."
The in-house view on Tomsula is sunny, but players will question the move to dump Harbaugh -- the result of a thorny power struggle -- if the Niners don't roar out to a strong start. After years of serving as an NFC West heavy, San Francisco enters the heart of the offseason as one of the league's true mystery teams. Improving on 8-8 is far from a guarantee.