SAN FRANCISCO AT TAMPA BAY
Mariucci nearly landed at Tampa Bay
Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2003 at 11:48 p.m.
TAMPA- Steve Mariucci hasn't spent much time thinking about what might have been if he hadn't waffled on an offer to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year.
Friend and former colleague Jon Gruden wound up with the job, and their teams meet Sunday in a NFC divisional playoff game.
"It was interesting. It was flattering, you know, those sort of things," Mariucci said of the interest the sons of Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer expressed in hiring him as coach and general manager 11 months ago.
Mariucci met with the Glazers for six hours at a Los Angeles hotel last February and agreed to consider their offer overnight. But sensing the coach was reluctant to leave the 49ers, the Bucs called Oakland owner Al Davis and struck a deal to pry Gruden from the Raiders before Mariucci even had a chance to accept or reject Tampa Bay's offer.
The 49ers coach said he has no regrets.
"They needed to do what was best for their team and their organization. I needed to do what was best for my team, this organization, my family, and those sort of things. It all worked out very well, I think, for everybody involved," Mariucci said.
"I was so happy for Jon. I know they had spoken to Jon prior to that, and spoken to some other coaches. We had put all of that on the table, and we were talking about all of that. At the end of the day, it worked out for everybody. Everybody ended up where they wanted to be, and we moved on."
Gruden was Tampa Bay's first choice after Bill Parcells backed out of a contract he signed to replace Tony Dungy. The Glazers turned to other potential candidates, including Mariucci, when it appeared the Bucs and Raiders would not be able to agree on compensation for Gruden.
Mariucci's uncertainty prompted the Glazers to go back to Davis and do whatever was necessary to get their man. The Raiders received four high draft picks and $8 million, and Gruden signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract.
"We're both enjoying the teams that we want to be a part of," Mariucci said. "Jon is enjoying Tampa. ... He loves being there, and he's doing a heck of a job. I love coaching this team. Coincidentally, we happen to be butting heads in the playoffs, and it makes it a lot of fun."
Besides the four seasons they spent working on opposite sides of the San Francisco Bay area, Gruden and Mariucci also worked together from 1992-94 as assistants under Mike Holmgren in Green Bay.
They're disciples of the West Coast offense and remain good friends, although Gruden said they have not discussed what transpired last winter when the Bucs approached both of them about moving to Florida.
"We've talked a couple of times professionally and a couple of times as friends. We never have brought that topic up," Gruden said. "It's obviously something that is done and over with. I'm sure he's very excited to be where he is and I'm very excited to be where I am."
The Bucs went 12-4 in their first season under Gruden, winning the NFC South. The 49ers (11-6) won the NFC West and rallied from a 24-point deficit to beat the New York Giants 39-38 in the first-round of the playoffs last week.
As head coaches, Gruden and Mariucci have faced each other once in the regular season, with Oakland defeating San Francisco in 2000. Both reject the idea that their familiarity will factor in Sunday's game.
"I think that is overrated because there are so many guys that are familiar with each other throughout the league," Mariucci said.
"There are many of us so-called West Coast offense guys, many of us who have coached together, coached against each other for years and years. There are players who have been jumping from one team to another. There is a lot of familiarity around. When you tee it up, you just play the game."
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