Knapp had played the loyal soldier after Mariucci was fired, saying he was willing to stay on as offensive coordinator - and it wouldn't bother him - if the team didn't consider him a candidate as its next head coach.
Niners general manager Terry Donahue met individually with each member of Mariucci's coaching staff last week and came away from his conference with Knapp convinced that the 39-year-old coordinator was one assistant coach the Niners wanted to keep.
"Greg came in and expressed his desire to stay with the 49ers," Donahue said. "He said he would very much like to stay in the organization and did not have a desire to leave."
The Niners had the same thing in mind. Though the offense stalled a bit this year from the progress it displayed in 2001, the team's brain trust was happy with the progress displayed by Knapp, who has been heavily involved in the play-calling since taking over as offensive coordinator last season. In Knapp's two seasons as offensive coordinator, the Niners have finished fourth and eighth in the NFL in total offense.
"I think one of the things that's kind of sacred in the 49ers organization is the offensive system," Donahue said. "I think the continuity of that system and the terminology for the quarterback and the offensive players would be important. It probably gives the organization its best chance to move forward with the greatest speed and ease of adjustment. I thought it was important to try and keep that part of the organization intact as much as possible as we move forward."
Knapp, who was the team's quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000, also has a strong rapport with the team's key offensive players, most notably Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia and All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens, who both have praised Knapp in the past.
Depending on who is brought in as head coach, Knapp could have an even larger role in running the offense than he had under Mariucci. Donahue said the team also plans on bringing back quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and offensive line coach Pat Morris next year - both are under contract - a further indication the team would like to keep in place a good portion of its offensive structure.
"There are a number of really good men within our organization who are competent and who a new head coach would be lucky to have," Donahue said.