Two losses in one day; I can’t take this
By now you’ve heard the news concerning the famous sports personality who suffered an untimely professional demise on Wednesday. It’s a sad day in the world of athletics, and personally it may take this reporter a while to get over it. We loved this personality so much … give me a minute …
I’m referring, of course to Anna Kournikova, who was ousted in the second round of the Australian Open. I take it badly when Anna loses*. But such is life. We move on.
But wait, I’ve just been handed this note. Apparently there’s other, less-attractive-in-tennis-outfits news this week. One item is the firing of 49ers’ coach Steve Mariucci, who was the victim of a regime change by owner John York, general manager Terry Donahue and president Bill Walsh — the 49ers’ version of Bush, Cheney and Karl Rove. Acting on a tip, York flew in on Monday and discovered that Mariucci had been developing weapons of little or no destruction — namely his offense. The smoking gun was his playbook, within which weapons inspectors found several running formations designed for a first down.
Now the official explanation from the 49ers front office is that Mariucci was terminated due to “philosophical differences.” The 49ers say that the coach wanted to be installed as vice president of football operations, as well as retaining his head coaching duties. And we all saw how well that worked with Mike Holmgren in Seattle.
But Mariucci denies this, saying he never wanted the VP job, noting that he couldn’t even operate Terrell Owens with any degree of efficiency, so why would he want to take on the entire organization? If you’re the head coach, why would you also want to be in charge of the towels? It makes no sense.
Mariucci is a good coach, but he wasn’t exactly dealing from a position of power. He has a good record with the team, but he’s only won three playoff games, and has never been to a Super Bowl. When you win the big one you can go in and demand a bigger office. Even then it’s iffy — Holmgren wanted the same thing in Green Bay after winning his Super Bowl, and was told to go elsewhere. Head coach/VP is just too big a job for one man.
There was also reportedly some lingering animosity between York and Mariucci following last year’s Tampa Bay courtship debacle. York is playing the part of the woman scorned. He was willing to forgive Mooch’s dalliance with the Buccaneers, but when Mariucci’s eye again wandered toward the VP job, he found all of his clothes thrown into a heap on the front lawn.
Of course, there was also this pesky detail about losing 31-6 in the second round of the playoffs. That didn’t help.
And so now we come to the fun part: who will replace Mariucci? Well, our long list includes names such as Andy Rooney, Carrot Top and the guy from the Dell Computer commercials, so let’s go directly to the short list. Our top seven prospects:
Denny Green. He knows the 49ers’ system, having coached under Walsh. He knows talent, and works well with the current regime. Plenty of experience. Odds: 5-1.
Jim Mora. The current defensive coordinator is seen as one of the league’s rising stars, having done more with a patched-up defense than Robert E. Lee. But is he ready? Odds: 7-1.
Mike Holmgren. Could he be enticed to leave Seattle? His contract situation says no, but I’d bet he’d love to do it. He didn’t like the way Eddie DeBartolo treated him when Holmgren was an assistant in San Francisco, but DeBartolo is gone. Odds: 11-1.
George Seifert. He’s tan, rested and ready. Odds: 20-1.
Gary Kubiak: The former quarterback and offensive coordinator with the Broncos would be the perfect choice, in our opinion. A great offensive mind, and Walsh loves him. Odds: 25-1.
Terry Donahue: The GM steps down and takes the coaching reins. Odds: 50-1.
Bill Walsh: You know he wants it, if for no other reason than to see what it would be like to coach for one season without Eddie D breathing down his neck. Odds: 90-1.
But it’s all just speculation at this point. Spring approaches, and 49ers’ fans wait anxiously for word of a new coach, with visions of Pete McCulley and Monte Clark dancing in their heads. But with the salary cap, does it really matter? League parity dictates that every team eventually becomes the Arizona Cardinals, no matter who is in charge. In San Francisco, you also have the long shadow of Walsh and Joe Montana to darken any accomplishment short of a Super Bowl title.
And so whomever the new 49ers coach is, I have this advance greeting: Poor dope.
* One would think I’d be used to it by now. Sad, really.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at
NBCSports.com. Contact Rick at RickChand@earthlink.net
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