San Jose Mercury

49ers' G.M.: Mariucci fired because of differing opinions
January 15, 2003
By Mercury News Staff and Wire Services

It came down to a difference of opinions.

That's how 49ers' team General Manager Terry Donahue described it today at a press conference at the 49ers' Santa Clara headquarters where it was confirmed that the team and its head coach Steve Mariucci had parted ways.

Team owner Dr. John York ``has very strong feelings about how the organization should be structured. Philosophically and fundamentally, John and Steve had a difference of opinion in terms of that,'' Donahue said.

The announcement that Mariucci was released from the final year of his contract came after he jockeyed unsuccessfully for a contract extension last season.

Mariucci went 57-39 while leading the 49ers to four playoff berths. The team was knocked out of this postseason last weekend with a 31-6 loss at Tampa Bay.

``This is not a performance issue that has forced us to reach this decision,'' team owner John York said. ``Rather, our decision is based upon a difference in philosophy within the 49ers' structure on how to best utilize our various talents in pursuing the goal of fielding championship teams and winning a Super Bowl.''

Donahue added: ``There were lots of issues, just like any time you depart with a coach. There are a lot of emotions.''

As much success as Mariucci had, his two predecessors -- Bill Walsh and George Seifert -- led San Francisco to a total of five Super Bowl championships, the first in 1982 and the most recent in 1995.

The Jacksonville Jaguars now are the only other team with a head coaching vacancy and are thought to be interested in Mariucci. The Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin last month.

Mariucci made $2.1 million this season, 19th among the NFL's 32 head coaches and a bargain rate for a coach with Mariucci's track record.

The road to today's announcement started last year, Donahue acknowledged.

``One year ago,'' Donahue said as he describe talks between Mariucci and John York, ``when they talked about an extension, Steve wanted to expand his role. He wanted to be vice president of football operations along with head coach. That was in conflict with what the owner wanted us to be.''

That expansion of his role never happened. Mariucci then 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 instead.

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

The 49ers won their first-round playoff game by rallying from a 24-point deficit to beat the New York Giants, but they were never in the second-round game against Tampa Bay.

Defensive tackle Sean Moran called today ``a sad day for the players.''

``I can't believe they let him go. He's a great coach and a wonderful human being,'' Moran said outside the team's training facility, where the announcement of the firing was made. ``You could actually talk to him. He wasn't one of those dictator types who you're afraid to meet with because you don't know what will happen.''

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