Looks like Mariucci will remain as coach
January 14, 2003
One way or another, Mariucci likely to stay Glenn Dickey
DESPITE A barrage of criticism from unrealistic 49ers fans and media speculation that he might be going elsewhere, Steve Mariucci made it clear Monday that he wants to stay with the 49ers, and not just for the one season remaining on his contract.
"I knew when I signed on for this job that expectations were high," he said in a conversation after his media conference. "That's just the way it is. So instead of complaining, you just strap it on and go out there. I'd certainly rather be here than in a place where you have no hope.
"It isn't always just about money. I like it here. I have faith in these players. Even in this era of the salary cap, somebody has to win the Super Bowl, and I think we'll have a chance to do it if we just keep improving this team."
The speculation that Mariucci might leave started in February when the Tampa Bay Buccaneershard to get him to replace the fired Tony Dungy. NFL insiders say that he had the job if he'd wanted it, but Mariucci insisted Monday that he wasn't close to taking it.
"I was just asking questions," he said. "I wanted to know what happened with Tony Dungy, what their salary-cap situation was, that kind of thing. Finally, I called up my agent (Don Yee) and said, 'This isn't going anywhere. Let's stop.' I think they felt the same way in Tampa.
"I had just convinced Jeremy Newberry and Garrison Hearst that they should sign new contracts here, probably for less than they could have gotten as free agents. I just didn't feel like I could leave them."
Lately, the speculation has centered on Jacksonville. "I don't know where that comes from, maybe just because the job is open," Mariucci said.
Realistically, if Mariucci wouldn't bite on an offer from Tampa Bay, a strong team with a real shot at the Super Bowl, it's hard to believe that Jacksonville, a losing team that needs serious rebuilding, could make him an attractive offer.
We also know 49ers owner John York won't fire Mariucci with one year left on his contract at $2.2 million.
The Yorks are in a relative money bind because they're paying Eddie DeBartolo, brother of Denise DeBartolo York, to get him out of the DeBartolo Corporation. A reliable source has told me that the 49ers will ask season ticket-holders to pay for their tickets earlier than usual, so there will be more working capital.
Meanwhile, York has said he wants to run the 49ers as a business, which seems a sensible plan, and paying two coaches for a season wouldn't fit into that plan.
There's another reason York won't fire Mariucci: He couldn't get a better coach.
Niners fans, at least the more critical ones, have very selective memories. They remember the Super Bowl triumphs and they've endowed Bill Walsh with mythical qualities that, in retrospect, are impossible for Mariucci or any coach to match. I greatly admire Walsh, too, but he wasn't perfect. The most lopsided playoff loss in 49ers history was the 49-3 crusher at the hands of the New York Giants in January 1987, when Walsh was the coach.
That 49ers team had limped into the playoffs with a series of devastating injuries, which resulted in the lopsided loss. This year's team had the same problem, and it was complicated by the salary cap.
It was obvious going into the season that the 49ers required another season without serious injury, which had been largely true in 2001, because there was no depth. Because they were still climbing out of the salary-cap hole, the 49ers could not afford to sign good players to replace those who were injured during the season. In the game against Tampa Bay, they were playing a cornerback who just had been signed off the waiver wire from the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers had no chance.
Nevertheless, Walsh and general manager Terry Donahue deserve credit for assembling enough good players to bounce back rapidly from salary-cap hell, and Mariucci deserves credit for coaching them to back-to-back seasons of 12-4 and 10-6. Contrast the 49ers' rapid recovery with Dallas, which found itself in similar circumstances but has won only 15 games in the past three seasons.
That might not be enough to convince York to extend Mariucci's contract at this time. My guess is that he'll let Mariucci coach the final year and then make a decision.
But if Walsh and Donahue continue to work their draft magic and produce enough good players to build the 49ers into true Super Bowl contenders, I think Mariucci will get his extension then -- and maybe even the acclaim he deserves from the unrelenting 49ers fans.
Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.