Mooch revisited

"I think if you consider Jeff Garcia throwing for 30 touchdowns passes or more two consecutive years for the first time any 49er quarterback has ever done so, as well as setting the yardage record, and T.O. leading the league in touchdown catches for the last couple of years, and on and on, if you consider that conservative, then yes, I was conservative."

Q: What are some of your feelings about coming back to San Francisco with your new team this week?

Mariucci: It is going to be exciting. We are just trying to find a way to win a game here. We're getting better and working hard. We are going back on the road again. We just went to Denver, as you know, and now we are going back to the West Coast for another big game. Our team needs to find a way to win on the road. We haven't done that in a while. So, I thought we got real close last week and we are improving and playing hard. We need to keep getting better. This team is really focused and working hard at it.

Q: How has your experience in San Francisco correlated to your new position in Detroit?

Mariucci: Everything that I learned there I brought here and then some. My six years there, we had a lot of experiences and we went through a lot of ups and downs. It was such a great learning experience to go through dealing with a veteran team, to go through dealing with a young team and building them up, dealing with salary cap issues, which I learned about first-hand, and all of that sort of thing. So, yes, a lot of that experience that I gained I can apply to this job. It is similar in a lot of ways. We are building this team from square one really, in some ways. We do have some good veterans, you know the Ray Browns and Robert Porchers of the world. Actually, the difference is that we don't have a young team like the '99 49er team. It is absolutely an old team by age when you have some of those veterans who raise your average a little bit, but we blended those veteran guys with some new young talent and began new. We have to start learning how to practice, learning how to be a pro and learning how to play together and understand our roles. We are getting to know each other. I told the team today that I know the 49er players better than I know most of the Lion players. We are getting to know each other and they are getting to know me as a result, which has been great fun, very challenging and very interesting. In fact, I told them that I really enjoyed their progress and I think we are making some great progress here. As you know, we are building this team and that takes a little bit of time.

Q: What are your impressions of the rough start the 49ers are having?

Mariucci: Again, what I told my team and what I'll tell you is that they (49ers) really should be or very well could be 3-1. They are a couple plays of being just that. They are ranked in the top five or whatever in offense and defense. They are very talented and experienced. We aren't letting the 1-3 record fool anybody. We know they are a much better team than that. I know them well and some of the coaches here know them well. Our players don't know them all that well just yet, but we will. We have similar schemes, you know that. They are fighting and working. We know that. We'll get their best game.

Q: What will go through your mind when you return to Candlestick Park? Memories of that New York Giants playoff game, your last game there as Niners coach?

Mariucci: That was a great win, wasn't it? That was my last memory of Candlestick, that big win, that comeback win against the Giants in the playoffs. I remember looking at the scoreboard when it was 38-14. I remember walking off the field a winner and I remember the locker room very well. It was a great memory for me. We are going come out on Friday and practice in the stadium. I have been in that visiting locker room a couple of times before. Once with the Packers in a playoff game and once with the Los Angeles Rams on a Monday Night game. So, this will be the third time in that locker room for me.

Q: Can you sympathize or relate to Dennis Erickson for his recent problems with receiver Terrell Owens?

Mariucci: No, I don't give it any thought really. I have enough things to concern myself with here in developing our receivers. We've got Az Hakim, Billy Schroeder and Shawn Jefferson, who have been around a little bit, but we are developing Charles Rogers here as a young, promising wide receiver. I really don't have time to give any thought to any of those other things.

Q: Before leaving, what was the ingredient in forming a better relationship with T.O.?

Mariucci: I think meeting with him in Atlanta and we sat down together and discussed some things. I thought that was a start. I thought the year was better than the year before, in terms of our personal relationship. It was unfortunate that he got hurt towards the end of the year because he was having a very good year. He missed the last two games to healthy up for the playoffs. My last conversation with T.O. was in my office when I was packing up boxes. He came in to visit with me.

Q: Did that surprise you that he came to visit you on your last day with the 49ers?

Mariucci: No. We had spent six years together and he had a lot of success and growth as a wide receiver and 49er. We sort of did it together. You know, it wasn't always perfect, but I suppose deep down that there was certainly a mutual respect.

Q: Do wounds linger from all the way your dismissal as 49ers coach was handled last year?

Mariucci: Wounds? I don't know about wounds. In this coaching profession, if we stay in it long enough, we are going to have some detours and some roads, some are smooth and some are bumpy, and all kind of different experiences as we go through a coaching career. So, I look at my 49er experience as an awesome one. I loved it. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I learned so much from it. I met so many great people, from players to other coaches to front office to workers in the building to the fans, I loved it. I take it for what it is worth. I was there for six years and I gave it my all. Circumstances led to me being elsewhere. Now, I am enjoying this. I am focusing on this. I don't focus on anything else. I've said it before, I don't look back nor do I look over my shoulder. I simply look forward and I enjoy coaching this football team and building it to be a contender at some point.

Q: Do you feel on-field production had a lot to do with you being fired after last season?

Mariucci: I don't know. It is hard for me to explain it. My father asked me that question and I can't explain it to him, so how would I be able to explain it to you?

Q: There were some criticisms that your offenses in San Francisco were too conservative. Do you believe that?

Mariucci: I think if you consider Jeff Garcia throwing for 30 touchdowns passes or more two consecutive years for the first time any 49er quarterback has ever done so, as well as setting the yardage record, and T.O leading the league in touchdown catches for the last couple of years and on and on, if you consider that conservative, then yes, I was conservative.

Q: What kind of advantage will you have going into this game?

Mariucci: Advantage? I, as well as our other coaches from Richard Smith, Tom Rathman, Andy Sugarman and Kevin Lartique, we know their personnel very well. We know their schemes very well. We know that it is darn good and we can give that information to our players. That is probably better off for us than playing an unfamiliar team. But as far as any other advantages other than that, our focus this week for the Detroit Lions is to improve our skills, to get better as a team individually and collectively, to get prepared for a big game and play the game as well as we have ever played. So, that is the focus and that is where my team is here and that is our mindset.

Q: When you scout the 49ers, is it much different when you self-scouted last year, particularly offense? Is it much different of an offense?

Mariucci: There are a couple of tweaks. It is mostly the same, but I know in their playbook, there is such a variety of plays, passes and concepts that they haven't shown everything. I'm sure Gregg Knapp will have a few new wrinkles, as we always all do, but obviously I am familiar with most of it and they are probably familiar with most of what we are doing too.

Q: Do you see much difference in their play-calling?

Mariucci: I don't know. I haven't studied it that closely.

Q: How much has the offense revolved through Gregg Knapp the last few years?

Mariucci: Knapper has been calling the plays for three years and he is very good at it.

Q: Do you see differences defensively for the 49ers?

Mariucci: Yeah. I see Jim (Mora) dialing up blitzes more often. I see that he likes playing all four linebackers, which is understandable, because they are all capable of starting and they will play them all at the same time on a lot of occasions, like we did last year. I think he is dialing up more pressures in base and nickel coverages, more so than last year.

Q: Do you wish you were still here coaching in San Francisco?

Mariucci: I love being a Detroit Lion. I'm committed to being here. We're trying to win a division and get into the playoffs. Jeez, we haven't done that in so long. I'm enjoying being home with my family. I'm going to go up and visit my folks next weekend during my bye. They have been down here several times and that is very special for me because I have seen my family more times in the last eight months than I have in the last eight years. I think that has been a real blessing. I'm looking forward to getting back there (San Francisco). It is going to be a lot of fun. I'm going to see a lot of familiar faces. The fans there are always awesome. Knowing that, I'm going to try and get my team prepared to handle the crowd because they are great. It is going to be a heck of a game.

Niners Digest Top Stories