The Oakland Tribune

Cottrell calls Niners' interest serious
February 06, 2003
Jets defensive coordinator says team will hire right coach regardless of race

By Roger Phillips STAFF WRITER

SANTA CLARA -- The San Francisco 49ers' coaching search is nearing its conclusion, and one of the candidates said Wednesday evening he's thankful to have gotten to this point in the team's "survivor series."

New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell met with 49ers general manager Terry Donahue and owner John York through the day and into the night. Today, it's 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora's turn. Friday, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache is slated for a second interview.

Asked what he would bring to the job, Cottrell said, "One thing I know that I can bring is the ability to get the players to play hard and play together."

Cottrell's defenses consistently have been highly ranked, even in 2002, when the Jets started 1-4 and allowed 162 points in the first five games. The Jets had six new defensive starters, but Cottrell rallied them, and in the final 11 games, they allowed just 174 points.

Cottrell and Blache are African-American candidates at a moment when the NFL is under pressure to rectify its poor record of hiring blacks to head-coaching positions. Cottrell, 55, said he's been pleased with the process with the 49ers.

"I've had seven teams talk to me (about head-coaching jobs)," said Cottrell, seeking to replace the fired Steve Mariucci. "Four of them have been what I'd call legitimate interviews, and three of them have been bull sessions. That's how I feel about it. ... (The 49ers) are going to choose the best coach regardless of race."

On other issues:

Cottrell said he believes in an aggressive defensive style, is comfortable with the 49ers' West Coast offense, and added it would be up to him whether to retain offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

He said he has defensive assistant coaches in mind should he be hired.

He said he is unconcerned that some high-profile players have criticized the team's coaching search.

In the coming days, the 49ers are expected to add at least one college coach to their list of candidates. Conventional wisdom is that the 49ers are on an austerity kick and would be unwilling to meet the price of a high-profile coach.

One source, however, said it is possible Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham -- the former Stanford coach -- could become a candidate after only one year with the Fighting Irish.

Willingham, 49, is known as a disciplinarian who would provide the tough leadership some say was lacking in Mariucci, and he spent three years as a Minnesota Vikings assistant under Bill Walsh protege Dennis Green.

At his news conference Wednesday after national signing day for high school players, Willingham said he stressed to his recruits that he intends to remain at Notre Dame.

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