Head coach or bust for Mora in S.F.?
January 22, 2003
By Craig Massei

In the next week or two, Jim Mora Jr. could be the new head coach of the 49ers. Or he could no longer be working for the organization. It appears Mora's fate won't fall somewhere in between, and SFI tells you why we tend to believe it will be the latter.

After a few days to let the dust settle following the sudden firing of Steve Mariucci, the San Francisco brain trust is moving swiftly to keep as much of its offensive structure in place as possible. The Niners have signed offensive coordinator Greg Knapp to a new one-year contract, and also have said they plan to bring back quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and line coach Pat Morris.

Meanwhile, Mora asked and received permission from general manager Terry Donahue to speak with the Carolina Panthers about their vacant defensive coordinator position. Mora then met with Panthers coach John Fox about that position on Monday.

On Tuesday, Donahue identified four candidates that he definitely planned to interview this week for Mariucci's former position. Three of them currently are NFL defensive coordinators.

See a pattern developing here?

If the Niners bring in a defensive coordinator from the outside, it's highly unlikely that coach would keep Mora as his defensive coordinator - or that Mora would want to stick around after being passed over. With the Niners making it known they are retaining some of their offensive staff, a new coach likely would bring many - or all - new defensive assistants with him.

Mora, however, is one of the three defensive coordinators that will interview with Donahue this week. He remains an attractive candidate for the job, but - since he and Donahue already met last week after Mariucci was fired - it would seem Mora wouldn't have been flying to Carolina so quickly if he really thought he had a chance at the 49ers' top job.

When asked if Mora - whose defense ranked 14th in the NFL this season - would have a future with the organization if he isn't named head coach, Donahue said:

"As far as I'm concerned, that would be fine," Donahue said. "That would be up to Jim and up to the new head coach if Jim were not the head coach. But Jim and I had a nice discussion and discussed the possibilities of everything. He asked if I would give him permission to go down and talk to Carolina in case he didn't get the head job here, and I said absolutely I would."

Draw your own conclusions about that statement. Here's our conclusion: It's head coach or bust for Jim Mora in San Francisco.

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