NFL memo hasten Mariucci departure?
January 15, 2003
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

Was the timing of a very significant NFL memo to club owners Tuesday merely coincidental to the firing of Steve Mariucci on Wednesday, or did the confidential new league edict help push the sixth-year 49ers head coach out the door? has learned that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Tuesday sent club owners and top executives a memo that established a moratorium on deals involving the trading of draft picks for the rights of a head coach, unless specifically approved by the league. The existence of the memo was confirmed to by two league sources.

The memo raises the question of whether the 49ers on Wednesday realized there was no longer any need to continue the charade of contract extension talks with Mariucci, given that San Francisco's front office could no longer extract any value from a team that might want to hire Mariucci. The 49ers thus may have decided to simply cut their ties with Mariucci, having lost any leverage they had in a potential deal with Jacksonville, which until Mariucci's firing was the only remaining NFL team without a head coach.

The 49ers move might also have been affected by Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver on Monday coming out and declaring that his team was not open to trading draft picks for the rights to any head coaching candidate.

Speculation is sure to center on whether the 49ers and Jacksonville have been in contact discussing a possible trade for Mariucci over the course of the past two weeks -- even as the 49ers were facing the Giants and Bucs in the first two rounds of the NFC playoffs.

In the memo, Tagliabue instructs club owners and executives that any discussions regarding the trading of a head coach for draft picks is banned through March 31. The league's competition committee, the memo says, has had concerns regarding the use of draft picks to acquire a head coach, such as the deal that Tampa Bay struck with Oakland last offseason to land head coach Jon Gruden. Such deals, the committee believes, might violate the intent of the NFL draft.

Tagliabue told the owners that the competition committee will report on the matter at the upcoming NFL owners meetings in March.

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