Contra Costa Times

Players are stunned, still defend Mariucci
January 16, 2003
Plummer is among those who are shocked after the coach is fired

By Eric Gilmore

SANTA CLARA - Rumors of 49ers coach Steve Mariucci's possible firing had been swirling for months.

But when those rumors turned into reality on Wednesday, 49ers cornerback Ahmed Plummer said he was still "shocked" by the news.

"He's meant a lot to a lot of the guys here," Plummer said at team headquarters. "We have a very young team. I know what coach Mariucci would say in this situation. He would say you have to be able to move on, you have to be able to deal with the changes."

Mariucci is the only NFL coach Plummer and many of his young teammates have known. Now all the players -- young and old alike -- will have to adjust to football life after Mariucci.

"He's a good coach," said 49ers defensive end Andre Carter, who was recruited to Cal out of high school by Mariucci. "It's unfortunate he had to leave. That's just the nature of the business. I wish him luck in everything he does. Hopefully down the road we'll meet again."

Defensive lineman Sean Moran said he learned about Mariucci's ouster from a teammate when he arrived at team headquarters. Moran's reaction?

"Shocked," Moran said. "Just completely shocked. I just couldn't believe it because all the sentiment after the (Tampa Bay) game was we were going to work things out."

Unlike Plummer, Moran has played for other NFL teams and coaches. This is his third NFL stop. He played for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams. He said Mariucci is one of the best coaches in the league.

"I don't know if this organization realizes how good of a head coach we (had) here," Moran said. "It's sad to see a guy like that go."

Offensive lineman Dave Fiore said Mariucci's firing created an atmosphere of "uncertainty" for players and the entire 49ers organization.

"A lot of guys have gone home, started their offseason," Fiore said. "Now we don't have our coach. I honestly believe coach Mariucci has done an incredible job. He's had a lot of adversity since Day 1 he was here. He's handled it with flying colors. I think he should be appreciated for that."

Moran called it a "sad day for players" on the team.

"I can't believe they let him go," Moran said. "He's a great coach and a wonderful human being. You could actually talk to him. He wasn't one of those dictator types who you're afraid to meet with because you don't know what will happen."

Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice, one of Mariucci's former 49ers players, had no comment when told of his firing.

Raiders coach Bill Callahan called Mariucci's firing "really unfortunate."

"It's a crazy business," Callahan said. "He's a quality coach. There's no question in my mind that he'll land on his feet."

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.