Mariucci won't rush decision on future

Published: Monday, January 13, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 11:37 p.m.

TAMPA - Speculation seems to follow Steve Mariucci.

Last season, he led the storied San Francisco 49ers past the Steve Young-Jerry Rice era, and into the Jeff Garcia-Terrell Owens era. Along the way, he went 13-3, advanced to the playoffs and lost in the Wild-Card round. Despite that, there was speculation that he might be fired. There was speculation that he might be swayed out of San Francisco by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, among others.

This season, he did one better. He led the 49ers to an NFC West championship, and a stunning comeback victory over the New York Giants in the Wild-Card round last week. Still, in the wake of his club's 31-6 NFC Divisional playoff loss to the Buccaneers Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, there was speculation about his future.

Will he stay? Will he go? Will he end up in Jacksonville?

"I'd like to get home and take a look at where we are at the appropriate time," Mariucci said as he wore the emotions of a humiliating loss on his face. "Am I in a real hurry? No."

Mariucci has one year remaining on his contract. There is a possibility that he could play out that contract, and field offers from other teams at this point next year. There is also a possibility that he could seek an extension with the club. And finally, there is a possibility that he could sit down with 49ers consultant Bill Walsh and work his way out of the remaining time on the deal.

"I don't see that there's any issue there at all," Walsh said of the Jaguars' possible interest. "It's being prompted and promoted by the media. It's something to talk about. But Steve still has a year on his contract."

The Jaguars, who fired Tom Coughlin last month after a disappointing 6-10 season, don't seem to be in a rush to hire his replacement. Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green, now an analyst with ESPN, interviewed with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver but has taken his name out of consideration.

College coaches Bob Stoops, of Oklahoma, Nick Saban, of LSU, and Kirk Ferentz, of Iowa, have also been mentioned as possible candidates for the job. However, of those three, only Ferentz seems like a realistic possibility. He interviewed last week. Stoops, on the other hand, declined an interview.

Mariucci reiterated that he is committed to the 49ers organization, and spoke Sunday of how he'd like to continue building the team back up.

"I'm certainly confident that he's going to be back next season," Walsh said. "(Speculation about the Jaguars) is a tangent that leads to nowhere."

Regardless of Walsh's endorsement, Mariucci did tread lightly with his comments regarding an extension or lack thereof.

"If that's the scenario that's most acceptable," he said when asked is he was prepared to go into next season without an extension. "But let's just see how it plays out."

The Jaguars have finished out of playoff contention for three consecutive seasons. They went 19-29 during that stretch.

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