49ers release Mariucci from final year of contract
January 15, 2003 news services

Steve Mariucci was fired Wednesday as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, sources have told ESPN.

Sources within the 49ers organization said there were philosophical differences between Mariucci and the club and that he wanted more authority, including asking for the title of vice president of football operations.

A source close to Mariucci denies that he asked for more authority. Mariucci will be paid for the one season left on his contract of $2.25 million.

Mariucci's ouster was confirmed by 49ers general manager Terry Donahue. The 49ers said they would hold a news conference Wednesday but would not say why.

Former Vikings coach Dennis Green and 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. might be candidates to replace Mariucci. The 49ers will conduct a nationwide search and will consider current staff members as well to replace Mariucci.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are the only other team with a head coaching vacancy. The Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin last month.

The 49ers' season ended on a disappointing note with a 31-6 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday in the NFC divisional playoffs. Mariucci went 57-39 while leading the 49ers to four playoff berths.

Mariucci said recently he wanted to return to San Francisco -- and was willing to coach without an extension next season, if necessary. Team owner John York said he prefered not to have a lame-duck coach.

Mariucci earned the 19th-highest salary among the NFL's 32 head coaches, a bargain rate for a coach with Mariucci's track record. But Mariucci and his family enjoy living in Northern California, and he has tried to repair any hurt feelings caused by friction over the 49ers' refusal to sign him to a contract extension last season.

Mariucci angered the 49ers' front office last winter by campaigning for a new contract through the media, and then talking to the Buccaneers last February about becoming their coach and general manager. The teams worked out a compensation package, but when Mariucci waffled on his decision, Tampa Bay hired Jon Gruden.

After rejecting Tampa Bay's offer, Mariucci changed agents and rededicated himself to the 49ers. They recaptured the division title and finished 10-6 despite significant injury problems on defense.

In a wild-card playoff game earlier this month, San Francisco rallied from a 24-point deficit to beat the New York Giants 39-38 for Mariucci's third playoff victory.

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