Erickson staying put - for now

On second thought, Ole Miss didn't look that good to Dennis Erickson after all. So now it's back to where it was earlier this week on the Erickson-Is-Out-As-49ers-Coach front: He'll be coaching San Francisco's final three games this season – and then he and team management will sort out this sordid situation from there. But stick around, because that could always change.

The Erickson saga takes a new twist every day, sometimes by the hour. On Wednesday, Erickson spoke with University of Mississippi officials in the morning and withdrew from consideration for their vacant head-coaching position, then told his players in the San Francisco locker room that he was sticking around to finish the season – and perhaps staying beyond that if things fall into place.

That, of course, remains open to speculation, just as everything involving Erickson's job status – not to mention that of his assistants – does at the moment.

But after meeting for two hours Tuesday evening with Mississippi chancellor Robert Khayat and athletic director Pete Boone at an upscale Santa Clara hotel just minutes away from 49ers headquarters, it is a done deal that Erickson is not leaving the Niners to coach the Rebels. After being rejected by Erickson, Ole Miss hired USC assistant head coach Ed Orgeron to be its new coach later in the afternoon.

"We got back together and both decided that it was in the best interest of both of us that they move on with their search and I stay here with the 49ers," Erickson said Wednesday afternoon at the end of 49ers practice. "There was never an offer and there was never a refusal. There was never anything."

Of course, with Erickson, where there's never anything, there's always something.

But, after the Ole Miss talks promised to steer things in a different direction, Erickson remains back on course toward an imminent confrontation with team owner John York and general manager Terry Donahue at the end of the season regarding his future with the organization, not to mention the direction of the franchise.

"I talked to John and I talked to Terry both this morning," Erickson said. "They were happy – or seemed happy – that I was staying here. That's the feeling I got. So we just continue on like we did. I came back and worked on preparation for the Redskins. That's where we are at right now and that's where we'll be until the end of the season." Actually, Donahue didn't seem very happy about the situation at all. But he put on a good face and said most of the right things when asked about the latest Erickson development.

"I'm pleased Dennis has decided to stay with the 49ers," Donahue said. "I thought he would."

But when pressed further if he was disappointed Erickson had interviewed for a job at this stage of the team's very tumultuous season, Donahue responded, "It's been a very tough season on everybody. This has been a hard year. It's been a hard year on the players and coaches and management team and ownership. It's very, very difficult to go through this kind of a season. It's most difficult on the head coach. It always has been and always will be. Dennis just told me he wanted to look at his options, and I said that's fine, and that was it. You want to make sure that people don't feel that they're in a situation they're uncomfortable in or can't grow and develop."

Erickson obviously is uncomfortable in the current situation, and that won't change until matters come to a head with York and Donahue at the end of the season – if it comes to that. While it now appears Erickson actually will finish out the season with the Niners, he is not a man who won't keep his options open – or that will rule out any possible scenarios.

"I don't know that you can ever rule out anything in this goofy business," Erickson said. "You can't. Right now, we just want to get through this season, see where we're at, and hopefully go on next year and try to get this thing straight. I don't know that I had an interest (in returning to the college ranks) when I visited with (Ole Miss), to be very, very honest with you. We have three football games left here and at the end of the season we're going to sit down and visit and find out where everything is at. It's not going to change. That's what is going to happen."

It seems a little more plausible now that is what actually is going to happen. Erickson says it. Donahue believes it. So do San Francisco's players.

"I haven't been with Dennis nearly as long as some guys have been, but I don't think he quits," said 49ers kicker Todd Peterson, who also spent four seasons with Erickson in Seattle. "He does what he says he's going to do. My experience with him is his word is good. What he says he's going to do, he does. He wants to get things turned around here. I can't take it for anything but face value. I know he's been honest with me for the six seasons I've played for him. What he's told me, he's meant. And that is what happened."

Said linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, "He told us the truth, that he met with Ole Miss officials last night, thought about it and decided to stick with us. It hasn't been a (distraction), not to me at least. I've always kind of approached it that you worry about other people's employment, and you'll find yourself unemployed."

Speculation will remain rampant these final three weeks whether Erickson or some of his assistants – or both – will be unemployed after Erickson's impending showdown with team management.

"I feel like I want to finish this thing, if we have that opportunity," Erickson reiterated. "I would like to see what we decide we're going to do when it is all over with at the end of the season and then go from there. And then decisions can be made about everything. That's basically where I am coming from right now. This (Ole Miss interview) doesn't have anything to do with the San Francisco 49ers or the University of Mississippi or anything. I just needed to take a look at it and I did. I feel that I want to stay here and see what happens.

"Right now, I'm done (talking to other suitors about coaching opportunities elsewhere). But, like I just said, you're always open to whatever. But I feel that we're going to be here next year. That's what I've been told."

When all is said and done, if Erickson is going to be with the 49ers next year, it will be with changes.

"When you go through a football season, you wait until the season is completed, and then you assess everything," Donahue said. "When the process is completed, you sit down and look at what's happened good and bad, and you make decisions bases on that analysis. When it's over, we have to assess our situation from top to bottom. We're not winning right now, and we have an obligation to win. It's that simple. We have to win. We do know that we can't have this kind of situation. We have to win. We're the San Francisco 49ers. We all see that very clearly."

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