San Jose Mercury

49ers G.M. Donahue begins to name names
January 22, 2003

By Dennis Georgatos
Mercury News

SAN DIEGO - Nearly a week after Coach Steve Mariucci was fired by the 49ers, the team got closer to finding his successor, but there is still no timetable for a final decision.

General Manager Terry Donahue said in a conference call Tuesday that he planned to conduct his first round of interviews this week, starting Tuesday with defensive coordinator Jim Mora, the only confirmed candidate among the current staff.

The 49ers also have asked permission to interview Romeo Crennel, 55, the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, last season's Super Bowl champions; Jim Johnson, 61, defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Brad Childress, 46, the Eagles' offensive coordinator. The Eagles advanced to the NFC championship game, where they lost to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Mora, who interviewed Monday for the Carolina Panthers' vacant defensive coordinator position, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

His candidacy for the 49ers job did not produce an outcry of support from one of his top players, however.

``No way, not as a head coach,'' said 49ers defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, who didn't give specific reasons.

Donahue also was evasive when asked if Mora had a future with the 49ers if he did not get the head-coaching job.

``That would be up to Jim and the new head coach,'' Donahue said.

While Dennis Green, a Bill Walsh protégé and former Minnesota coach, and New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell were on what Donahue called a broad list of candidates, neither has been contacted for an interview.

Donahue, who is leading the search with input from team director John York, declined to release any other names.

``This is an evolving process,'' Donahue said. ``And in speaking with John, he was pretty emphatic that there be no timetable. He wanted to make sure we have the right guy when we hire him.''

Stubblefield, who was one of Mariucci's biggest supporters, said finding a replacement won't be easy.

``It's unfortunate this happened to such a guy, of course,'' Stubblefield said. ``They are going to take some time to do it right. They're going to see what's out there. They're going fishing in the sea.''

The list of candidates remains fluid. Donahue said there was a possibility the 49ers would seek to talk to one or more assistants from the Raiders or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who meet Sunday in the Super Bowl in San Diego.

Donahue has spoken highly in the past of Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin 62, and Raiders senior assistant Marc Trestman spent two years as the 49ers' offensive coordinator before his firing by former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo in 1997. Kiffin and Trestman have overseen the league's top-ranked defense and offense, respectively.

There was also a chance candidates could emerge from the college ranks.

University of Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel, a former quarterback who was coached by Donahue at UCLA, has been mentioned as a possible candidate along with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

Meanwhile, the 49ers, seeking to maintain offensive continuity, signed coordinator Greg Knapp to a one-year extension and told offensive-line coach Pat Morris and quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner they would not be released from their contracts.

``One of the things that is kind of sacred within the 49ers is the offensive system,'' Donahue said. ``I thought it was important to keep that part of the organization intact as much as possible.''

Donahue said he wants to give the new head coach as much flexibility as possible in appointing a staff, but it's evident any new hire would be encouraged to retain Morris, Tollner and Knapp.

The 49ers also have told secondary coach Brett Maxie he will not be released from his contract. Maxie had been contacted by the Arizona Cardinals to interview for a similar position but told Donahue he would rather stick around in hopes he will be retained by the incoming coach.

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