Will firing Mooch be 49ers' big mistake?

We can only imagine what really went on in that 90-minute sit-down this morning between John York and Steve Mariucci at 49ers headquarters. Did Mariucci get on his knees and plead to remain head coach of the team? Did he tell team owner/director York to take this job and shove it? By the time Mariucci's exit meeting was over and York was finished firing his popular former coach, you can bet the sentiments involved in the conversation hit on several areas between those two extremes.

After giving Mariucci the ax, York described his former coach as "a good friend." But let's get serious. There never was any love lost between York and Mariucci, even after Mariucci led the shattered dynasty that York inherited in 1999 out of the NFL abyss more quickly than anybody could have expected. Mariucci never was York's coach. And to be the 49ers coach these days, it's obvious you must do things York's way.

Many are shocked by York's decision to dump Mariucci, but it's really not that surprising. York is all about doing things his way, a structured way, a business way. And in that structure, the head coach will coach. And nothing more.

Obviously, Mariucci was much more than just a coach in his six years with the Niners. He was a posterboy for the organization, the team's guiding light and charismatic frontman. Charming and attractive - and, let's not fail to mention, also pretty darn good with the X's and O's - his face and voice became symbolic with the organization, and his ambition and success yearned for an increased role in the franchise's power structure.

That was never going to happen, unless Mariucci turned into the second coming of Vince Lombardi and started immediately winning Super Bowls. Failing to do that, he was going to have to know his place in the organization, and do his job in reaching those lofty goals before ever being considered for a more prominent role, and the money that comes with that.

But when Mariucci looked around the NFL, he saw men with considerably less talent earning considerably more money and acquiring considerably more power in organizations that never have had enjoyed San Francisco's success. Nobody can blame him for wanting a larger slice of the pie.

And the Niners didn't blame him for that. They fired him instead. The explanation was "philosophical differences." Philosophical differences? That's for sure. The 49ers want a coach who's going to worry only about making them prolific on the field. Mariucci - perhaps justifiably so, considering his many talents - was just as worried about what would ultimately make him the most prolific he could be as a football icon.

He'll surely get a chance someday to do that somewhere else. It wasn't going to happen in San Francisco until he did what he was brought in to do by a different ownership group - win a Super Bowl. That's the standard set here by his illustrious predecessors, and Mariucci knew that all along. That Mariucci wanted more before doing that was his big mistake. That the 49ers sent away such a successful, proven and qualified coach could end up being their big mistake.




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