Contra Costa Times

Mariucci says he wants to stay in San Francisco
January 14, 2003
The 49ers coach wants a contract extension but might stay without one

By Jonathan Okanes

SANTA CLARA - With boxes in hand, players filtered out of 49ers headquarters Monday less than 24 hours after enduring their season-ending 31-6 loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. But the lingering question at 4949 Centennial Boulevard was whether coach Steve Mariucci would be following them out the door for good anytime soon.

49ers owner representative John York is expected to meet with Mariucci sometime soon to discuss the coach's future. Mariucci has one year remaining on his contract.

At his season-ending press conference Monday, Mariucci reiterated that he doesn't necessarily believe it's imperative for him to have a new contract in place before next season. He said he definitely plans on coaching the 49ers next year and definitely is interested in pursuing a contract extension to keep him in San Francisco.

"Is it possible to go into a final year without a contract? Sure," Mariucci said. "I suppose that's one of the scenarios. I plan on being in San Francisco next year."

If Mariucci and the 49ers don't work out an extension, the club would have to decide if it wants to retain the coach for the duration of the contract. Mariucci himself could explore other options, such as the vacant job at Jacksonville.

Mariucci is in the lower echelon of NFL head coaching salaries, making about $2 million a year, and could command a significant raise. He said Monday that he'd be willing to accept less money to stay with the 49ers.

"Oftentimes when someone loves being at their place of employment, sometimes you will continue to stay there and say no to something else because you're on a mission to accomplish something where you are," Mariucci said. "I think we have a good thing going on here."

Mariucci has compiled a record of 57-39 in six years in San Francisco. He weathered subpar seasons in 1999 (4-12) and 2000 (6-10) when the franchise struggled with salary cap limitations, but returned the 49ers to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, including the NFC West Division championship this year.

But Mariucci endured some criticism this season for the 49ers being too conservative on offense, and some critics believe that the coach has taken the team as far as he can.

"There shouldn't be any question about his future here," 49ers fullback Fred Beasley said. "He's a great coach and a great guy. He's been here through thick and thin when we had some down seasons. He's got us back to where the 49ers used to be. He's a big piece of the puzzle to get there."

Mariucci left himself open to some criticism Sunday when he elected to have the offense run out the clock in the first half rather than try to put together a scoring drive with 50 seconds left and the ball at the 49ers 31. San Francisco trailed 28-6 at the time, and had managed just 85 yards of offense.

"I needed to settle the team down," Mariucci said. "The wheels were starting to come off a little bit. Crazy things were happening. I just didn't want anything else crazy to happen in those 50 seconds.

"We weren't getting anything going on offense. We were completely out of sync. For me to think we were going to drive the length of the field in 50 seconds when we hadn't made many yards at all the entire half, it would be wishful thinking."

Players went their separate ways Monday proud of the season they put together, but also believing it ended too early. The 49ers were decimated by injuries by the end, especially on the offensive line and in the secondary.

"A lot of teams have injuries," 49ers linebacker Derek Smith said. "We had some pretty key ones. We did a pretty good job playing around them. It would have been nice to have everybody. We didn't, but we did the best we could with what we had."

NOTES: Cornerback Ahmed Plummer, who suffered a dislocated right shoulder Sunday, had an MRI on Monday and it revealed no structural damage. Plummer will begin rehabbing immediately, and the shoulder will be re-evaluated in four weeks to ensure it is healing properly. ... Three players will have surgery in the near future: defensive end John Engelberger (ankle) today, offensive guard Eric Heitmann (hand) on Wednesday and safety Tony Parrish (thumb) as early as Wednesday.

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