Let the speculation begin

Will Steve Mariucci be back as 49ers head coach next season? Does team management still want him? Mariucci made a few things clear Monday: He wants to return in 2003 for his seventh season leading the team. And he's planning to return. "I don't know if I would lay out a well-thought-out plan for our (spring) minicamps, and offseason, and coaches and what we're going to do unless I felt that way," Mariucci said. "This is what we do, this is what I intend to do, and that's where it is right now."

Mariucci, who has one year remaining on his contract and will meet in the near future with team owner/director John York to discuss a possible contract extension, was asked extensively about the subject during his 37-minute, season-ending state-of-the team news conference.

Here are some of his answers:

Q: Where on the list of offseason priorities is your own contract?

Mariucci: John (York), (general manager) Terry (Donahue) and I sat down during training camp up in Stockton in August. And we had a great meeting and we said, 'All right, listen, let's do this. Let's not talk about any kind of contract stuff during the season. It's going to be distracting. We'll do this after the season's is over.' We all agreed to do that. We all felt comfortable with that. And we all still feel comfortable with that. The pros and cons to that ... the pros would be, we didn't talk about it every week and I appreciate you guys not asking about it every week - that was fine. The downside, I guess, it leaves the door open sometimes I supppose for some rumors, and some speculation and some what ifs, and all of that. And lately, that's what it's been, but we weren't going to change gears and say, 'All right, now we're going talk about it just to slow it down in the press.' We agreed to keep it to the end and that's what we're going to do. I read somewhere today that it's going to happen on Tuesday - I don't know where that came from, really. John is in Youngstown (Ohio) and I'm here. We don't have a date scheduled. We don't have a timetable. We will get to it when we need to, which will be in here sometime soon, and discuss all that. Obviously, some of my coaches are waiting. I have some coaches whose contracts are up at the end of the month. They're a little on edge I suppose - it's just natural. But when I met with them today, I told them that I would keep them informed. I'm going to meet with every one of them starting today. I will probably have met with every coach before I even sit down with John. So that's where we are. There's no definite timetable, there's no ultimatums, there's no agenda other than getting together, sitting down privately at some point and discussing the future of this franchise.

Q: Is it in your best interest, professionally or personally, to go into the final season of your contract without an extension?

Mariucci: I don't know. I never have done that before. I think the only guys in the league that are like that would be Dick LeBeau - I think he has one year left. I think Dick Vermeil has one year left and I think Dan Reeves has a year left. And they may be in a different board than I'm in with respect to continuing. I don't know what their situation is. But as far as I know, there's only that handful of guys that today have a year left on their contract. Is it possible to go into a final year without a contract? Sure. Sure it is. I suppose that's one of the scenarios, one of the possibilities, and when John and I sit down, we'll talk about all of it.

Q: Do you want to stay here? Do you want to pursue a contract extension?

Mariucci: Sure I do. I've never said anything different than that. If it's the right thing to do, if it's the right thing for the organization, if having us long-term is the right thing, then we're really going to talk about it and consider it and see if that works. And I'll find out from John if that's what he wants to do. And we'll sit down and talk about those things. I'm very open-minded to listening to what he has to say and what he envisions for this organization's future. Every man in that room this morning - coaches and trainers and players and front office and this entire building, feels we've been fighting back now for a few years. We've got through the turbulent years with being short, short of players salary budget and all that sort of thing. We've gone through that now. And as I indicated with those numbers, we're kind of climbing our way out of it. And therein lies some optimism that we can continue building this team. So everybody right now seems to be committed to doing that.

Q: Why would you coach this year in the final year of your contract?

Mariucci: Why? I'm not saying that's what's been agreed to, I'm not saying that I hope to, Im just saying that that's a possibility. If that's the scenario that best works for everybody, then I think we need to consider it. I'm not suggesting that's the best-case scenario, nor the worst. It's just one of the possibilities. And if that's the case, then we'll have to discuss that.

Q: Would you consider taking less than the market rate to stay with the 49ers?

Mariucci: I do know the answer to that. And if anyone thinks that I'm, you know, greedy or unrealstic or that sort of thing ... It's not just all about me. It's not just about Steve Mariucci. It's about the football team and the coaches and the direction and the vision and the future - it's about all of us. It's about what's best in this time in 49erland. And those are the things we need to sit down and discuss. ... The answer is yes, because.. Now, that's a negotiation that goes on. And it's not with you guys, and it really isn't with me. It's with John behind closed doors with my representation. And they talk about all that sort of thing. They talk about what works for both parties. And that's what it's got to be, something that works for both sides. Something that we as coaches and our players can live with.. Same with free agents, free agnet players, there's oging to be a market for defensive end with Chike Okeafor, there's going to be a market for wide receivers with Tai Streets and so on and so forth. And there's always a market for head coaches and assistant coaches. We all know that. We went through that last year with Jeremy Newberry and Garrison Hearst, Fred Beasley. And oftentimes, when somebody loves being at their place of employment - and you've all been through this - sometimes you will continue to stay there and say no to something else because your'e on a mission to accomplish something where you are. So those are things that, yes, we do take into consideration, absolutely.

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