Contra Costa Times

Mariucci, Fassel in same boat
January 02, 2003
Coaches realize lack of job security comes with the territory in the NFL

By Cam Inman

SANTA CLARA - 'Tis the season for coaching changes in the NFL, and two high-profile coaches who have endured rumors this season regarding their job security will meet Sunday, when Steve Mariucci's 49ers host Jim Fassel's New York Giants in a first-round playoff game.

Fassel said he isn't surprised at what Mariucci is going through, in terms of not knowing whether 49ers ownership will extend his contract beyond the 2003 season.

"Have you read the New York papers this season? Heck, I was considered out of here," Fassel said. "You have to be kidding me. It is just the way it is. ... It's just the way the league is today. If you can't accept it or work under those conditions, then don't aspire to be a head coach."

Having guided the 49ers (10-6) to their first NFC West title since 1997 and their second consecutive playoff berth, Mariucci said he is fretting over Sunday's game, not his contract.

"When John (York, the 49ers owner representative) and I spoke (in the offseason), we mentioned that we would discuss this when we were through this season, not the regular season, but all of it," Mariucci said. "I'm glad we haven't spoken yet about it. I hope it's a little later. We're trying to keep playing and winning. We'll talk about it then."

Both Mariucci and Fassel began their tenures in 1997. After leading the Giants to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, Fassel received a four-year contract extension. During a 3-4 start this year, he said he heard rumblings from the New York media hounds regarding his future.

Fassel then made a bold coaching move. Stating he would "no longer stand around and watch us score one touchdown a game," he reclaimed play-calling duties, and the Giants since have won seven of nine.

"I'm the head coach. If any area is not functioning, then I'm going to take control of it," Fassel said. "That is what they pay me to do. Sometimes you can walk away and put the finger on somebody else and dissolve yourself of the blame, but that is not my personality and I don't think that is what the organization pays me to do."

After scoring fewer than 14 points in five of their first seven games, the Giants have averaged 25.7 points per game in their past nine with Fassel calling the plays.

The 49ers are averaging 22.9 points per game this season. Mariucci said he is unwilling to strip offensive coordinator Greg Knapp of play-calling duties, a role Knapp assumed last season when he replaced Marty Mornhinweg, who left to become the Detroit Lions coach.

"I don't plan any changes," said Mariucci, who held primary play-calling duties only in his first two seasons, 1997 and '98.

Asked if he and his teammates think they're playing to save Mariucci's job, 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson said: "More or less we're playing for all of our jobs. You can't keep a team around if you're not winning. If we continue to get put out in the first round, then there's going to have to be changes made to get to the next level. ... So we're going to try to win out and see what happens after that."

Winning a Super Bowl is one of 10 team-oriented goals Mariucci said he made before the season, and if the 49ers do win it all, that likely would quiet his critics. The same likely goes for Fassel.

"I suppose we have similar situations in that we are coaching for organizations that have won Super Bowls, whose fan base loves winning," Mariucci said. "So the expectations can be high."

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