The Sporting News

Mariucci's dismissal unpopular with players
January 20, 2003
By Mike Triplett/Sacramento Bee In making the decision to replace coach Steve Mariucci, the team may have overlooked his popularity with the players.

Jeff Garcia was uncharacteristically vocal about the move, saying he lacked confidence in any new coach being able to move the team forward. ...

The new coach will inherit a better team than the 49ers had a year ago.

Almost every player on the young defense has another year of seasoning -- including players who have yet to emerge, such as cornerback Mike Rumph, and players on the verge of breaking out, such as end Andre Carter, linebacker Julian Peterson and cornerbacks Jason Webster and Ahmed Plummer. ...

The team likely will continue its 1-2 punch at tailback with Garrison Hearst and understudy Kevan Barlow, but Barlow is ready to take on an increased role.

It makes sense to keep both players in the game plan. That way, if one of them is injured, the other is ready to take over by himself.

Surprisingly, Barlow, 24, not Hearst, 32, is the player who has been hindered by injuries the past two seasons. Both would benefit from a more creative game plan in which defenses don't know the run is coming early in games.

Late this season, defenses stopped the run early in games, then forced the 49ers to ignore it later when they fell behind.

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