Sacramento Bee

As rumors swirl, Mariucci eyes extension
January 14, 2003
It's unlikely the team will fire him, but he still could wind up somewhere else.

By Mike Triplett -- Bee Staff Writer

SANTA CLARA -- Coach Steve Mariucci repeated Monday that he wants to pursue a contract extension with the 49ers. And when asked if there is a good chance it will happen, he said yes.

"Sure I do. I've never said anything different than that, if it's the right thing to do," Mariucci said following a morning of brief team meetings. "If it's the right thing for the organization. If having us (Mariucci and his staff) long-term is the right thing, then we're really going to talk about it, consider it and see if that works.

"And I'll find out from (team owner John York) if that's what he wants to do."

Mariucci expects to find out York's thoughts later this week or early next week. York told reporters Sunday he planned to call Mariucci today to set up a timetable.

Some reports said the two had scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, but the team issued a statement Monday disputing those reports. York is in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

He and Mariucci have said they want to iron out a solution quickly. While Mariucci remains under contract for one more year, nearly half of the assistant coaches' contracts run out this month, including that of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

"Obviously some of my coaches are waiting," Mariucci said. "They're a little on edge, I suppose. That's natural. When I met with them today, I told them I would keep them informed. I'll meet with every one of them starting today. I probably will have met with all of them even before I sit down with John."

The 49ers' season ended Sunday with a disheartening 31-6 loss at Tampa Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs -- two games shy of the coveted Super Bowl.

Monday, the team met at 7:30 a.m. to discuss the offseason schedule. Almost all of the players cleared out of the team's practice facility before noon.

Attention quickly turned to the coach, which came as no surprise.

"Of course it bothers me, as it does bother a lot of guys here," fullback Fred Beasley said on his way out of the facility, referring to speculation that Mariucci might not return for a seventh season. "He's a great coach. He's a great guy. He's been through thick and thin. He's a big piece of the puzzle.

"If anything happens by him not being here next year, we lose that puzzle."

Mariucci also received strong votes of confidence Sunday from, among others, quarterback Jeff Garcia, defensive coordinator Jim Mora and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden.

The 49ers' organizational structure has yet to show such support. But York has hinted he is willing to consider extending Mariucci's contract.

Several scenarios seem possible -- the least likely being that Mariucci would be fired. For one thing, he is too valuable a commodity. Rumors persist that the Jacksonville Jaguars might be willing to offer the team compensation to hire away Mariucci. Monday, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said he would not give up draft picks as compensation to hire Mariucci or any coach.

York said he has received no calls from Jacksonville. And Mariucci has not expressed interest in another job. But such a scenario would make more sense than both sides parting empty-handed.

Chances are, the team will offer its coach an extension of some sort, whether it's for less money than market value ($3 million to $3.5 million) or fewer years than expected (only one or two).

Also possible is that Mariucci simply coaches out his contract as a "lame duck" -- a rarity in the NFL. Mariucci is scheduled to earn $2.2 million next season.

"I don't know. I never have done that before. But it is possible to go into the final year without a contract," Mariucci said. "I'm not saying it's the best-case scenario or the worst. It's just one of the possibilities."

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.