The Oakland tribune

Niners vets blast Mariucci firing
January 19, 2003
Stubblefield takes a shot

By Roger Phillips STAFF WRITER

Jeff Garcia and Dana Stubblefield are the primary offensive and defensive spokesmen on the San Francisco 49ers, and in separate radio interviews, both have made their discontent over Wednesday's firing of coach Steve Mariucci crystal clear.

In his interview Friday on KNBR, Garcia -- the 49ers starting quarterback -- referred to interference with Mariucci by the Niners' higher-ups as a case of "too many chiefs, not enough Indians."

Stubblefield was asked by host Gary Radnich whom he wanted as the 49ers' next coach. Without missing a beat, Stubblefield said, "Steve Mariucci."

He also predicted the likelihood is money will be a primary factor when the 49ers hire a replacement.

Stubblefield also defended Mariucci's handling of his relationship with star receiver Terrell Owens. He said Mariucci's conciliatory trip to Atlanta last off-season to repair his relationship with Owens showed leadership.

Referring to general manager Terry Donahue, consultant Bill Walsh and owner John York, Stubblefield said, "They probably felt that (Mariucci) wasn't tough enough. I felt taking time out of your off-season to go out there to Atlanta and controlling it and meeting with him one-on-one, that right there is handling your business."

Of Owens, Stubblefield said, "You got a guy, T.O., who doesn't like to pay his green fees. Green fees are paid to all the people around the 49er building that take care of us. (Owens is) a guy, I'm not going to say a bad apple, but he kind of likes to stir it up a bit."

Stubblefield also disputed the notion that an attempt to grab additional power was at the root of Mariucci's ouster. If it had been, Stubblefield said, "He would have taken the Tampa job (a year ago). He would have had all the power in the world there."

Stubblefield said the decision to fire Mariucci probably was made well before the end of this season and that the team's leaders had felt negative vibes for a long time.

"After any game, you just felt something's not right," he said. "And all of the older guys, Mooch's 'Dirty Dozen,' we got together, talked about it, and said, 'You know what, let's try to do this, not only for us but for Coach Mooch, as well."

Garcia sounded a similar theme in his interview and expressed concern that whoever the 49ers hire to replace Mariucci won't measure up.

"If you don't have a better option, then why is this taking place?" Garcia said. "I'm not a big fan of some of the options I've heard that are out there. ... You hear a name thrown out there, and it's maybe not something you totally want to see with this organization."

Garcia and Stubblefield agreed that conflicts between Mariucci and Walsh and Donahue were no secret among the players. By some accounts, on game days Mariucci would deliver a pregame speech, then so would the legendary Walsh -- providing a living, breathing and unwanted shadow from which Mariucci could not emerge.

Of the unsettled relationship between coach and front office, Garcia said, "I think everybody can see that. I don't think that's any secret, obviously. In a way, it comes down to too many chiefs, not enough Indians."

I don't know if he ever felt or believed he had the confidence in others that this was his team."

It won't be easy for whoever ultimately replaces Mariucci.

"We grew in so many ways together," Garcia said. "Seeing him not a part of this team anymore is a little bit frustrating, and it's definitely disappointing."

Stubblefield said making an inspired decision on a replacement will be vital.

"Oh, yes, indeedy, yes," he said. "Yes. Especially when you have a coach like Steve Mariucci who cared for you as a player off the field. He cared for you, your family. There's coaches who can fake the funk, but we as players know which coach really cares for us."

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