Erickson will put his signature on staff

Dennis Erickson is in the process of assembling his first coaching staff with the 49ers. He'll continue meeting with San Francisco assistants today and hopes to have "something put together" by early next week. "I have some sort of an idea, but it's not set yet," said Erickson, who said offensive coordinator Greg Knapp would be retained, but made no firm commitment to any other coach currently with the team. It's also likely some of Erickson's Oregon State staff will join him in San Francisco.

Knapp signed a one-year contract extension shortly after Steve Mariucci was fired as the team's head coach on Jan. 15. Erickson, however, is an offensive coach who likely will bring in some of his own offensive staff. It's expected he also will call the plays for San Francisco in 2003, a role held by Knapp last season.

"I talked to Greg about that position," Erickson said. "He knows this offense extremely well. We talked about it and we decided that we are going to keep Greg. I'm not on any kind of ego trip. I want to do what is best for our players and the organization. So, I'm going to visit with him about that and we'll go from there. It's the same thing that I'm going to do with all the assistants that are here. There are some awfully good coaches here."

Erickson had good things to say about current 49ers quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and offensive line coach Pat Morris. Tollner, Morris and secondary coach Brett Maxie currently are under contract with the team for 2003.

"I've known Ted Tollner for many years," Erickson said. "And Pat Morris is as good as there is. I'm going to visit with them. I still don't know all of them (assistants) yet."

Team owner/director John York said the Niners would like to retain defensive coordinator Jim Mora, who was interviewed twice and identified as a finalist for the position that ultimately went to Erickson. Erickson said he would sit down with Mora, but it is believed that after being passed over for the head job, Mora is likely to leave the team, quite possibly to join Mariucci in Detroit.

The Niners have several coaching vacancies as much of the rest of Mariucci's previous San Francisco staff has left the team. As of today, the Niners have coaching vacancies at linebacker, defensive line, special teams and wide receiver.

General manager Terry Donahue indicated he has encouraged Erickson to assemble his staff the way he sees fit.

"He will not be a coach that doesn't put his own signature on the team," Donahue said. "I'd be very disappointed if he didn't approach this job with an independence and a feeling of freedom to coach this team the way he wants."

When asked about his commitment to diversity on his staff - an issue since two African-American assistants from the 2002 staff already have left the team - Erickson said, "A huge commitment. I want to have diversity on our staff, but I want to make sure we pick good coaches, too. I think it's very important that you have diversity. But my No. 1 priority is to pick good coaches."

It's expected that Erickson will bring with him Gregg Smith - who has worked with Erickson for more than two decades - in some coaching capacity. But the question of where he fits in gets a little muddled because Smith's specialty is the offensive line, where the Niners appear comfortable with Morris' influence. Smith could come in as an assistant head coach.

If Oregon State offensive coordinator Tim Lappano is not named to replace Erickson as Oregon State's head coach, he is a strong candidate to be hired by the Niners as an offensive coach in some capacity. Oregon State receivers coach Eric Yarber also is a prime candidate to fill that position with San Francisco if he doesn't stay in Corvallis.

When asked about bringing with him staff members from Oregon State, Erickson said, "There are some that we planned to bring here, but we got to see what the situation is, as far as the staff that is here right now. We'll know more about that next week."


Niners Digest Top Stories