Martz says Niners should take care of Mooch

In the murky issue of whether Steve Mariucci will receive a contract extension with the 49ers next year, Rams coach Mike Martz stepped up this week with a clear vote of support for San Francisco's head coach. Martz, who received his own lucrative contract extension with St. Louis five months ago, said he "can't fathom" the 49ers not doing the same for Mariucci after all he has done for them. "For San Francisco to lose Steve Mariucci, I can't imagine that happening," Martz said.

Mariucci, in his sixth season with the Niners, is signed through 2003 to a contract that's paying him about $2.2 million per year. After Mooch was courted by other suitors several times during last year's playoff run, team owner/director John York said he would not talk about a contract extension with his coach until after the 2002 season.

Both York and Mariucci have stood by that timetable this season, and both sides have vowed that contract talks between the 49ers and Mariucci's agent, Gary O'Hagan, will not commence until after the current season.

Martz, who arguably is one of Mariucci's chief coaching rivals considering the team's they direct, said he expects the Niners will step up for Mariucci in the same manner the Rams stepped up for him in the offseason after Martz led St. Louis to the Super Bowl last season.

"I just hope it works out for him in San Francisco," Martz said. "He's a great coach. I can't fathom San Francisco letting him out of there, to be honest with you. I think he is at the top of the league with the truly great ones. For San Francisco to lose Steve Mariucci, I can't imagine that happening."

Martz is 4-1 in head-to-head matchups with Mariucci since taking over as St. Louis' head coach in 2000. In July, the Rams extended Martz's contract through the 2006 season. He reportedly had two years remaining on a four-year deal that paid him about $1.1 million annually, but Martz's new deal pays him between $3 million and $4 million per season.

Considering what some other NFL coaches are being paid, Mariucci probably will be seeking a new contract offering similar numbers.

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