The Press Democrat

49ers will seek West Coast coach
January 17, 2003

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers' next head coach will keep the offensive philosophy that Bill Walsh brought to the organization when he was hired in 1979.

Team owner John York on Thursday said he does not foresee the team getting away from the West Coast offense, which has been a staple of the 49ers' success for more than two decades.

"I don't know if it's a question of the 49er way, which I think is good philosophy," York said, "but we have a good quarterback who clearly has an understanding of the West Coast offense and the team is used to it. To deviate from that might be difficult and still expect a run in the playoffs."

Jeff Garcia, the organization's $36 million quarterback, has earned three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He is considered a good fit for the 49ers' trademark short-passing game, which is predicated on timing.

The 49ers' offense, in various forms, has been adopted by roughly half the NFL teams. With as many NFL head coaches who have ties -- directly or indirectly -- to the 49ers, many teams have similar philosophies on how to practice and plan for opponents.

"If we hire an offensive head coach, I'd expect that he'd be familiar with that type of offense," York said. "If we hire a defensive head coach, he will also have a hand in the offense, but we have people on our staff who clearly understand the offense."

York reiterated his desire to have African-American coaches interview for the job that was vacated with Steve Mariucci's firing on Wednesday.

Although general manager Terry Donahue will spearhead the search for the new coach, York said he will seek direction and advice on African-American candidates from Baltimore general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome, Pittsburgh president Dan Rooney and the NFL.

The most serious African-American candidates from outside the organization appear to be former Vikings coach and 49ers assistant Dennis Green, St. Louis defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

"Dennis certainly has a long history with the 49ers, having been an assistant here," York said. "He's well-respected by Bill Walsh and he's somebody I think we will consider."

He added, "There is a reasonable possibility we'll talk with George Stewart, but that would be up to Terry."

Stewart, the 49ers' receivers coach, completed his seventh season with the 49ers and his 14th as an NFL coach. He has never been a head coach or coordinator at any level.

The only other current coach on the 49ers' staff York confirmed as a candidate is defensive coordinator Jim Mora. He indicated that the team might interview other candidates on the current staff, including quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner.

Tollner completed his first season on the 49ers' staff. He spent four years as head coach at USC in the mid-1980s, then became a pro assistant for 14 seasons before spending eight seasons as head coach at San Diego State.

CNN/SI reported on its Web site a scenario in which Tollner, 62, might be seen as a candidate to take over for a year or two until the 49ers find a coach with a higher profile.

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