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Concentrating on the playoffs
Mariucci trying to keep 49ers focused amid distractions
Posted: Tuesday December 29, 1998 12:04 PM
SANTA CLARA, California (AP) -- For as much success as he's had in his two seasons as San Francisco 49ers coach, Steve Mariucci can't help feeling vulnerable.
On a day when five NFL coaches with losing records got fired, the playoff-bound Mariucci on Monday confronted questions about his deadlocked contract extension talks and rumors about his job security.
"It's what we deal with as coaches," Mariucci said. "This might be a different situation or a more unusual situation than most organizations. But nevertheless those are things that we as coaches have to deal with.
"So, you just bury yourself in game preparation and you do the best you can. If that's good enough, great. If that's not good enough, then that's not up to me to decide."
Even as the 49ers (12-4) began preparations to play host to the Green Bay Packers (11-5) in Sunday's wild card-playoff game, rumors are swirling about the possibility Bill Walsh, the Hall of Fame coach who led San Francisco to three Super Bowl wins in the 1980s, could rejoin the organization in a front-office role. Walsh didn't return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
With the 49ers ownership and management also in a state of flux, there has been further speculation that Sunday's game could amount to a referendum on Mariucci's future with the 49ers.
It's all too much for running back Terry Kirby, who thinks Mariucci is being treated unfairly.
"I think it's a joke really," Kirby said. "I think he's definitely established himself as a winning coach."
Mariucci's predecessor, George Seifert, had the best winning percentage in NFL history when he was ousted after back-to-back playoff losses to Green Bay.
Mariucci, who spent four years in Green Bay as a quartebacks coach, has a 28-6 record but he's 0-2 against the Packers, including a 36-22 loss earlier this season.
Now, there are rumors that Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren, a former San Francisco offensive coordinator who remains close to exiled owner Eddie DeBartolo, could leave to take on a dual role of coach-general manager with the 49ers. That could leave Mariucci as the odd man out.
On top of that, the 49ers ownership picture remains unresolved, and no permanent replacements have been named for either Carmen Policy, who quit as team president in July, or general manager Dwight Clark, who left earlier for Cleveland.
Larry Thrailkill took over as 49ers president and John McVay came out of retirement to replace Clark, but both are working for the 49ers on an interim basis. That has contributed to the impression that the 49ers are adrift, unable to make commitments or act with decisiveness.
"We need to hire a front office, a permanent front office," Mariucci said.
Clearly weary of the swirl of speculation, Mariucci said he didn't know when or if Walsh would return, but that it could happen and that a front-office role for him might be a good thing.
"Will it work, I don't know," Mariucci said. "I don't know exactly what the plan is. I don't know if really anybody does, but it's a possibility."
"If Bill and John [McVay] can get the right people in place and take us through these few months while the ownership situation resolves itself that might be the best thing in the world."
Mariucci also declared his talks on a contract extension -- he's finishing the second year of a five-year, $4 million contract -- have been delayed until after the season, and he said he wouldn't talk about it again this week.
"We'll handle it when the season is over," Mariucci said. "We need to play some football. We need to prepare for some football. It would be unfair to my team for me to continue talking about something that is really an issue that needs to be dealt with later on."
Quarterback Steve Young said players have tried to keep the focus on the field although they've had to fight plenty of distractions from the start.
"There's been a lot," said Young, recalling that on the first day of full-squad training camp workouts, the team was awakened for a midnight meeting to inform them Policy had quit.
"I give the players in this room a lot of credit. We keep winning. That's how we solve our problems around here, keep winning, so that's what we have to focus on this week. If we win, we solve our own problems."
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