San Francisco Chronicle

Mariucci got a lot from so little
January 07, 2003
Glenn Dickey

JEFF GARCIA's creative offense in the final quarter and a half of the dramatic comeback win over the New York Giants might have saved him and coach Steve Mariucci, but it didn't solve the 49ers' problems.

Garcia has not had a good season, and if the game had continued as it was going in the third quarter, he would have faced stiff competition in training camp from Cade McNown. After the courage and good decision-making he showed during the comeback, it seems that the only quarterback battle in the summer will be between McNown and Tim Rattay for backup.

Mariucci has been hammered in the media and by the idiots who call in to radio talk shows, but he has imbued his team with a competitive spirit that enabled it to beat a superior team.

Before the comeback, though, the Giants exposed the 49ers' flaws. New York won the battle at the line of scrimmage both ways. Tiki Barber ran through big holes, but the 49ers got stuffed when they needed a yard for a first down. Though Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow are excellent runners, they were not a factor because they got no running room. Garcia was the 49ers' only effective runner, but only one of his runs, a naked bootleg, was by design.

The 49ers have only one topflight receiver, Terrell Owens. Tai Streets should be the No. 3 receiver, but the team has nobody better. The 49ers should have cut their ties to J.J. Stokes and taken the salary-cap hit. Stokes simply cannot get open. A colleague says Stokes can take the carpool lane because he always has a defensive back with him.

Mariucci won a division and beat a superior team Sunday with this deeply flawed team. He should be praised, not condemned.

NFL MANEUVERINGS: The 49ers campaigned hard with the NFL to get a Sunday playoff game instead of Saturday, following their Monday night game in St. Louis. The Monday night schedule should have been changed, anyway. No team should have to start the playoffs with a short week. . . . The New York Jets are no picnic, but at least the Raiders get to play them here, instead of New Jersey. Jets fans start drinking early and are wild by game time. So different from Raiders fans.

A GREAT INFLUENCE: Sid Gillman was a very successful coach, the first to win titles in both the NFL and AFL, but his true legacy is in the young assistants he nurtured -- Al Davis and Chuck Noll were on his first staff with the San Diego Chargers -- and his influence on the passing game.

Gillman, who died last weekend, and his predecessor, Hampton Pool, put in the first sophisticated passing offense in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams. Other teams, including the Raiders when Davis came to the team as a coach in 1963, adopted the same offense and the long passing concepts are still used today.

QB DECISIONS: USC quarterback Carson Palmer committed early to the East- West Shrine Game, then wavered when he got a fullcourt press from the Senior Bowl. Now, when it seems his great play in the Trojans' lopsided win over Iowa in the Orange Bowl cemented his choice as No. 1 in the NFL Draft, Palmer probably will pass on both games, to avoid possible injury or a poor showing that could downgrade his status.

Ken Dorsey, who will be the East's starting quarterback in Saturday's Shrine Game, is in a much different situation. Pro scouts have questioned Dorsey's arm and also thought that his success at Miami came primarily because he was surrounded by great players. If Dorsey plays well in the Shrine Game, and looks good in this week's practices with scouts on the sidelines, he could upgrade his draft status.

CAL HOOPS: It was encouraging to see David Paris make a significant contribution (seven points, four rebounds in 13 minutes) in Cal's win over Stanford on Saturday because the Bears must get good production from freshmen Paris, Richard Midgley and Erik Bond if they're going to finish high in the Pac-10 this year.

"Every coach would like to have a senior team like Oregon (the Bears' Thursday night opponent)," coach Ben Braun said, "but you are what you are, and these kids can play."

Paris is especially important because he gives Cal an inside presence, to complement Amit Tamir, a great passer and shooter from the high post. At 6- foot-9, 260 pounds, Paris is more of a banger inside.

ODD TEAM OUT: The players' association's belief that the slowing of the baseball free-agent market is because of collusion among the owners was undercut when the Giants overpaid (four years at $26 million) to get Edgardo Alfonzo. If there was a collusion meeting, the Giants missed it.

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