49ers set to pare coach list
February 04, 2003
Kevin Lynch, Chronicle Staff Writer
This morning, the phones of Ted Cottrell (Jets defensive coordinator), Romeo Crennel (Patriots defensive coordinator), Jim Mora (49ers defensive coordinator) and Greg Blache (Bears defensive coordinator) will ring. On the other line will be 49ers general manager Terry Donahue informing the men they either will be advancing as a finalist to replace Steve Mariucci or they no longer will be considered.
Donahue could pull the plug on all of them and opt for a college coach. None of the aforementioned four has emerged as a clear favorite.
All have rich and divergent backgrounds. Crennel, Blache and Cottrell are older African American coaches who might be viewing this as their final head- coaching opportunity.
Crennel, 55, took a haphazard mixture of second-tier free agents and promising young players and, along with Pats coach Bill Belichick, molded them into a Super Bowl-winning defense.
Cottrell, also 55, has grown weary of being the designated "minority" candidate for head-coaching jobs. Since the NFL dictated that a minority must be interviewed for every head-coaching opening, Cottrell has interviewed seven times. He's 0-for-7.
"I think this process was genuine," Cottrell said of the seven-to-eight- hour interview he had with Donahue at his Donahue's near Newport Beach (Orange County).
The latest entrant, Blache, guided the Bears' defense to a 15th ranking in the NFL in 2001. Chicago finished 25th last season.
To base a coach's fitness for a head-coaching job on defensive statistics is questionable at best, and the effectiveness of all three defenses was curbed by injury.
The same could be said for the 49ers' defense, which is about the only thing Mora has in common with the other candidates.
At 41, Mora is at the age in vogue these days (see: Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden and Jack Del Rio). Mora is also highly organized, deals well with the media and would maintain a modicum of stability for the organization.
Prospects for Mora look good, particularly after the 49ers denied the Seahawks permission to talk to him about their defensive-coordinator job.
The four candidates have failed to tantalize outspoken quarterback Jeff Garcia, who thinks the organization is drifting.
However, given the constraints of time, perception and money, the search seemingly has been thorough and effective. The rumored $1.5 million a year the team is offering won't attract a high-profile candidate. Neither will the perception of Mariucci's arbitrary firing and the fear of owner John York's tight-fisted ways.
In response, Donahue has unleashed a scouting department with the investigative verve of Columbo to check out the candidates' backgrounds.
So now the four will sit and await a phone call that could alter their futures.
MARIUCCI NEAR DEAL?: The Detroit Lions hope to hire Mariucci as their coach by today after trying to reach a deal for the past six days.
"While there was significant progress made during those discussions, no deal has yet been finalized that would make Steve our next head coach," Lions spokesman Bill Keenist said Monday night. "We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached with Steve by the end of the day tomorrow."
Mariucci's agent, Gary O'Hagan, said Monday night that negotiations were moving forward with the Lions.
BRIEFLY: The Pro Bowl had its highest overnight rating in three years, receiving a 6.9 rating and an 11 share on ABC on Sunday. . . . Packers running back Ahman Green could face up to $450 in fines and have his driver's license revoked for up to one year after he allegedly failed to report a traffic accident last week.
Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.