Erickson will work amid intense pressure

Win an NFL championship. Or fail. Those are the circumstances of which Dennis Erickson signed up for. There's no in between. Erickson certainly appears up to the challenge. "That is our goal," he said. "That is why I am here. That is why I took the job." But the pressure is on. In giving this jewel of a job to Erickson, Niners GM Terry Donahue made it clear what the organization is expecting from its next head coach. "We aren't here to finish second," Donahue said.

"Above all else," Donahue said, "(we wanted) a coach that we knew could take us to a world championship. We found that man."

Now, go get 'em, Dennis.

Clearly, the organization is under the belief that it has the personnel and talent to compete for a Super Bowl this season. There's a belief that also was the case last season, but the team's title aspirations were doomed by a severe rash of significant injuries.

Not to mention coaching. That's one reason why Steve Mariucci no longer is head coach of the 49ers, whether the team likes to publicly admit or not.

Now that Niners management has quickly rebuilt the team after San Francisco's two-decade dynasty crashed and burned in 1999, Donahue made it clear just getting the team to the playoffs won't be enough for Erickson to satisfy his bosses.

"We have as good of a team as anyone in the NFL," Donahue said. "We have six Pro Bowlers, and we've had as many Pro Bowlers the last two years as any team in this league. And, by the way, we've won as many games as almost anybody in this league over the last two-year period. So we must have good players, and we do have. I'm not saying we have the best, but we have very competent people and I expect that we are going to continue to do that with good drafting, good free-agent selections. We're here to win and we have an expectation level here. When you come to the San Francisco 49ers, you know that before you come."

Erickson knows it. What he might not know is how often he'll be reminded of it if - and when - things get difficult.

But Erickson seems very willing to bring those heavy expectations smack on top of himself.

"I would like to believe we can compete for the world championship this year," he said. "I'm getting old. I want to get it going."

So do the people for whom he's now working.


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