The Oakland Tribune

Owner York is in no rush to clarify Mariucci situation
January 13, 2003
By Roger Phillips STAFF WRITER

TAMPA, Fla. -- All season, 49ers owner John York said he would wait until after it was over to address the future of coach Steve Mariucci.

OK, the season's over, so now what? After the 49ers' 31-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon in an NFC divisional playoff game, York did little to clear things up.

Asked if he expects Mariucci to return next season, York said, "I expect for us to sit down and talk. He's got a contract for next year. We'll just go forward and see how that all plays out."

York said he will call Mariucci on Tuesday to set up a more comprehensive meeting with his coach, who has one year left on his contract. And while York did not rule out the possibility, the owner said he did not relish the prospect of going into next season with a lame-duck coach.

"We'll talk on Tuesday and figure out when we want to get together," York said. "We're not going to push it and hurry it, nor are we going to let it sit. I don't know what the timing is. ... That's a decision for Steve and I sitting down and talking about things, and I think we can get it worked out."

When Mariucci was asked if he was committed to returning to the 49ers next season, he said, "I am."

The coach added, "I think what I need to do is get home and take a look at where we are and let things settle down. Then, John and I will sit down and discuss this at the appropriate time. Is there a real hurry? No."

York made it clear that having Mariucci return as alame duck is not an appealing option.

"I don't think that that's a good possibility," York said, "but it's a possibility. I don't think that's the way that it should be."

Of the possibility of coaching the 49ers next season without a contract extension, Mariucci said, "If that's the scenario that's most acceptable to everybody, I suppose that's one scenario. But without getting into any details or speculation, let's just see how this thing plays out."

There isn't a ton of time. The contracts of roughly half of the coaching staff are up, so there is more to this situation than simply securing the services of the head coach.

Understandably, though, most of the attention in the coming days will be focused on Mariucci.

A year ago, Mariucci was courted first by Notre Dame, then by the Buccaneers. The 49ers were prepared to accept a compensation package from the Bucs for Mariucci. Instead, the Bucs worked out a compensation deal with the Oakland Raiders and hired Jon Gruden.

If Mariucci were to go elsewhere in the NFL next season, the 49ers would receive compensation from that team. The most prominent rumor has been that the Jacksonville Jaguars, who recently fired Tom Coughlin, are interested in Mariucci.

However, York said he has not been asked by the Jaguars -- or anyone else -- for permission to talk to Mariucci.

When asked whether he would grant such permission if it were requested, York said, "Don't speculate. I haven't gotten any calls, haven't thought about it. I really haven't. ... That's not in my thought process."

York was quick to praise the progress the 49ers have made the last two seasons. From a combined 10-22 record in 1999-2000, the 49ers improved to 12-4 in 2001, when they were a wild-card team, and this season won the NFL West with a 10-6 record and won a wild-card playoff game, their first postseason victory since 1998.

But when asked to comment on the job Mariucci did this season, York's answer was lacking in the unconditional praise one might have expected.

"We won the Western Division," York said. "Nobody else won the Western Division. So to sit there and throw rocks at the coach when you won the Western Division and won a playoff game, that's foolish."

Players, however, have been complimentary of Mariucci when asked about the job he's done.

After the game, cornerback Ahmed Plummer said, "Coach Mariucci is definitely one of my favorite coaches of my football career. I've learned so much from him, not only him but his coaching staff. It's really been a great experience. I don't really talk about speculation because I don't necessarily buy into all of that. But he's a great coach."

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