Sacramento Bee

Yes, the 49ers had a plan, but it stopped at the firing
February 04, 2003
By Mark Kreidler -- Bee Sports Columnist

And coming up next on the Scarlet and Gold Network: Bill Walsh, the infant years.

It is, indeed, a fine time for 49ers fans to start brushing up on their team's glorious past, because the future all of a sudden doesn't look so hot. What began as a semi-interesting coaching search has devolved into the blackest football comedy ever, a procession of never-heard-of-'em candidates so undistinguished and uninspiring that even the Pro Bowlers are carping.

"We're almost pulling names out of a hat right now," sniffed increasingly irritable quarterback Jeff Garcia, referring to the latest offering, Chicago defensive coordinator Greg Blache.

Garcia and Pro Bowl grouse-mate Jeremy Newberry may be right about that, but they're wrong in further suggesting the 49ers didn't have a plan. On the contrary, owner John York, honcho Terry Donahue and Walsh certainly did have a plan.

The plan was this: Fire Steve Mariucci.

Shame on us for assuming the thought process went any further than that.

Unquestionably, the organization's actions since, particularly the re-hiring of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and other key assistants, suggest that what this team wanted out of the process was not BTM (Better Than Mariucci), but rather ABM (Anyone But Mariucci).

And that's exactly what the 49ers appear likely to get: anyone. Look at the search now: assistants everywhere, none with any head coaching experience. A couple of defensive coordinators. No Mike Holmgren. Not even a Denny Green, for corn's sake -- and Green is looking better every time the newest San Francisco who's-that? list gets posted.

Handy rule of thumb: If you're going to blow out a guy so successful that he requires exactly two weeks to surface as the hottest candidate for other available jobs in the NFL (see Mariucci and Detroit), it's a good idea to have your even-more-promising replacement already lined up.

The hardy faithful may hold out hope that Donahue, who appears to be heading the search, is waiting until after national letter-of-intent day on Wednesday to begin earnestly pursuing a top college coach. In light of what's transpired so far, that's probably the longest shot on the board.

Nope, it looks like what York wanted, more than anything, was to make sure Mariucci saw the door. It has to be a shock to people who've followed the 49ers' proud recent history to realize, perhaps just now for the first time, that York and his folks didn't have a Part II to their plan.

Break out the Walsh-era tapes. It could be the coldest summer yet.

* Not that February is a slow sports month, but: "Pursuit of the America's Cup Can Be Fulfilling, and a Curse." (Headline in the New York Times, Feb. 2.)

* Now Barret Robbins' wife says they'll make a public statement, and that she wants to express how unhappy she is with Robbins' Oakland teammates for not understanding how ill her husband was during Super Bowl week. And I think we all can agree that this is a good thing, because nothing clears up a locker-room misunderstanding like having the spouse become fully involved.

* Future NBA star LeBron James gets dumped from his high school team for accepting two replica jerseys worth $845. Quite surprising: I didn't even know James shopped at the Pentagon Retail Outlet.

* Say it as many times as you need for the thought to take root: The Kings are injured, not lousy. The question isn't whether they'll find their defense in time for the playoffs. The question, if it's going to be asked properly, is whether they'll find a healthy Chris Webber, a healthy Bobby Jackson and a healthy Scot Pollard in time for the playoffs. (And the other question, of course, is what actually constitutes a "healthy" Webber. We'll get to that eventually.)

* It's a pointless debate on just about every front, especially the part about "proving" something, but say this: If there is a female golfer who could enter a men's PGA tournament and compete to win it, it is Annika Sorenstam. One of the most bloodless, focused, go-for-the-throat winners I've ever seen in the game.

* Not that February is a slow sports month, but: "Bozeman Raises Profile Of Division II Felician." (Headline in the New York Times, Feb. 2.)

* The Lakers proclaim it, and until it's proven otherwise, I believe it: If they can just get themselves into the playoffs, they like their chances in "series" basketball. That ought to be the rightful concern of every other team in the Western Conference, the local one included.

* I only rode on the plane. It was the bereft Raiders fan in the row behind me who said it, upon returning to Sacramento after witnessing the Super Bowl: "I pretty much paid $3,000 for a Bon Jovi concert." (But at least Styx was the opener.)

* Umpire Bruce Froemming doesn't even make it to spring training before tossing out the first gender/ethnic insult of the baseball season, making a wildly disparaging statement about a Jewish female ump-administrator. On the bright side, it's apparent that baseball is expanding its slur zone for 2003.

* Not that February is a slow sports month, but: "Arena Football, With New Respect and a TV Deal, Joins the Mainstream." (Headline in the New York Times, Feb. 2.)

Or, upon further review, not my stream.

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