The Press Democrat

Walsh as coach? 'Don't be shocked'
January 24, 2003
Former QB Young, Garcia say such a move might make sense for 49ers


SAN DIEGO -- As preposterous as it might appear, former and current 49ers quarterbacks said Thursday they would not be surprised to see Bill Walsh coaching the team next season.

The 49ers have been without a head coach for more than a week and no front-runner has been established. If nobody distinguishes himself as a clear favorite, said Steve Young, a familiar face might return to coach the team for one season.

"I'm sure that if things got where really nobody emerged that he would raise his hand and volunteer," Young said of Walsh, with whom he has spoken this week.

Young said if the search dragged on and the 49ers concluded they might have to wait a year to get the right coach, then Walsh could "bridge" the gap.

"Don't be shocked," he said.

General manager Terry Donahue, who is interviewing head-coaching candidates, did not return phone calls Thursday.

Jeff Garcia, who appeared with Young at a Super Bowl press conference for the opening of an education center for disadvantage youths, gave credence to Young's prediction.

"As much as he continues to hang out at the facility, I don't see why not," Garcia said of Walsh. "I wouldn't be surprised if that were to happen. I don't see us going in that direction, but it wouldn't shock me. The guy still has a youthful exuberance about him. Bill can coach the game."

Young first aired his thoughts about a possible Walsh return last week during his gig as an ESPN studio analyst. Walsh, 71, who is in the Hall of Fame, boldly stated he would be better than ever.

"You know, I could do a better job today than ever before," Walsh told USA Today this week. "I just couldn't handle the eight months."

Walsh won three Super Bowls in 10 seasons with the 49ers before stepping down in 1989. He returned as coach of Stanford, compiling a 17-17-1 record in three seasons, ending in 1994. He is under contract to the 49ers for another year as a consultant.

The 49ers officially have identified five candidates for the opening, with defensive coordinator Jim Mora as the only one with direct connections to the organization.

On Thursday, the team received permission to interview New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress and New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel are expected to interview with Donahue over the weekend. Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson declined to interview for the job. Instead, he signed a lucrative deal Thursday to remain with his current team.

Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin might also be in the mix after his team plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday against the Raiders.

Young and Garcia were critical of the way the 49ers handled the firing of Mariucci, whose wife found out from listening to the radio while her husband was still in owner John York's office.

"The way everything came down, that's what I was more so angry about than anything else," Garcia said. "If you're going to do a change, do it professionally."

Although Donahue is heading the search for the new head coach and Walsh is thought to be out of the loop, Young did not discount Walsh's role in finding Mariucci's replacement.

"I've talked to Bill and he's got a firm hold on what he wants to accomplish. The biggest issue is to find a guy who can build on what Steve did, and Steve built a great foundation. The key is to find the next guy to build. That's a hard order."

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