|Wednesday, January 15
Updated: March 31, 12:06 PM ET
49ers fire Mariucci after six seasons
ESPN.com news services
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For all his charm and success with the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Mariucci couldn't please owner John York.
The 49ers fired Mariucci on Wednesday after six seasons as coach, ending a prolonged clash of egos and visions that diminished his otherwise successful tenure.
Three days after the 49ers' fourth trip to the playoffs under Mariucci ended in a 31-6 loss at Tampa Bay, York released Mariucci from the final year of his contract. The men hugged Wednesday morning after a 90-minute meeting in which Mariucci tried to talk York out of the decision.
"This was something that I thought was necessary to get us to move forward,'' York said. "I wasn't planning on trying to (change coaches) this way, but there were reasons why I needed to talk to Steve. It just seemed to me that no matter what came up, Steve and I did not see things together.''
Mariucci told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli on Wednesday that he was stunned by the Niners' explanation.
"I'm surprised to listen and learn that (purported request for more power and the title of director of football operations) was an issue at all," said Mariucci. "I guess I'm shocked to hear that part of it."
In a news conference Thursday, Mariucci rejected talk that he already has made plans to become a TV commentator.
"I don't have a clue right now what I'm going to do or what I want to do," he said. "Will I coach again? I suppose so."
The reasons for Mariucci's departure were murky -- perhaps by design for an organization that simply felt Mariucci hadn't reached the exacting standards it demands, whether on the field or off.
Ruthless firings are nothing new for an organization that always expects to add to its collection of five championships: San Francisco parted ways in 1997 with George Seifert -- who won two Super Bowls -- after the 49ers lost in the second round of the playoffs.
"It's a very emotional and unpleasant situation for both of them,'' general manager Terry Donahue said of York and Mariucci. "Dr. York has a very strong idea about how he wants the 49ers structured. ... This is a philosophical split between what John wanted to do and what Steve wanted.''
According to Donahue, Mariucci wanted a bigger role in the 49ers' football decisions, including the position of vice president of football operations. But Mariucci's agent, Gary O'Hagan, said Mariucci never made those demands, and he desperately wanted to return.
York and Mariucci had a phone conversation Monday that went poorly, and York flew from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, to California to complete the first coaching change since he took charge of the team in 1998.
But York didn't attend the news conference announcing Mariucci's firing, choosing instead to conduct a conference call from the second floor of the 49ers' training complex with reporters who were on the first floor.
"You can't have that much difference between the owner and the head coach,'' York said. "We need to go find a head coach that fits into our structure.''
Mariucci left the 49ers' complex in a black van Wednesday afternoon, with his personal assistant driving his car behind it.
The firing is the boldest move yet by York, who has a medical degree and many successful business ventures. His family gained control of the 49ers in 1998. He is married to Denise DeBartolo York, the sister of former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo.
"John's a really big football fan,'' said York's spokesman, Sam Singer. "I don't know if he would characterize himself as a football expert, but he's a successful businessman who knows what he wants out of an organization.''
Mariucci was thought to be a prime candidate for the head coach opening in Jacksonville, but ESPN.com has learned that Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will become the Jaguars' new head coach.
Donahue said York will choose the 49ers' next coach from a list Donahue expects to draw up. The team didn't have any immediate candidates, but Donahue will consider assistants on Mariucci's staff, including defensive coordinator Jim Mora.
Dennis Green, who coached the Minnesota Vikings from 1992-01, is a logical candidate to replace Mariucci. Green was on 49ers consultant Bill Walsh's staff when Walsh was coaching the NFL team and Stanford.
"I've always considered myself part of the 49er family,'' Green told ESPN, which employs him as an analyst. "I've got some interest in that job for a couple of reasons. It's a very attractive job.''
Green also said he wouldn't mind being only a coach in San Francisco. Green's talks with Jacksonville reportedly broke down because he wanted a say in personnel matters.
Mariucci went 57-39 in San Francisco, with a remarkably brief rebuilding period sandwiched between four seasons of double-digit victories. This season, San Francisco went 10-6 and reclaimed the NFC West title before making the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history to beat the New York Giants 39-38.
But for as much success as Mariucci had, Walsh and Seifert led San Francisco to a total of five Super Bowl titles, the first in 1982 and the most recent in 1995.
Mariucci still will be paid the $2.2 million from the final year of his contract -- an amount that would be reduced if Mariucci takes another job next season.
The history of Mariucci's conflicts with the front office is long and winding. Mariucci angered the 49ers last winter by campaigning for a new contract through the media, and then talking to Notre Dame and the Buccaneers about their vacancies. The teams worked out a compensation package, but when Mariucci waffled on his decision, Tampa Bay hired Jon Gruden away from Oakland instead.
The 49ers won their first-round playoff game by rallying from a 24-point deficit to beat the Giants, but they were never in Sunday's second-round game against Tampa Bay.
Defensive tackle Sean Moran called Wednesday "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 complex. "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.''
Mariucci repeatedly said he wanted to keep his family in the San Francisco Bay area, and he would be willing to take a minimal raise or even coach the final year of his contract without an extension.
"I didn't think that it was best to have a lame-duck coach,'' York said. "I thought it was best to have a coach that we were fully committed to. There's been enough noise around here for the last two years. It's just too much noise. You can't be doing all this stuff and moving the team along.''
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.