Erickson must have say in shaping roster

Now that the 49ers have made some decisions about who won't be on their roster in 2003, it's time to start determining what additions will be made to the team's core nucleus. As the 49ers become Dennis Erickson's team, it's a legitimate issue to question how much say he'll have in personnel. Wanting more say in personnel helped get Steve Mariucci fired, and Erickson came in saying, "I don't want the power to make every decision personnel-wise." But like any good coach, he'll obviously want some.

Erickson made it clear why he accepted the job with the 49ers. He just wants to coach, and isn't interested in gaining a higher place in the power structure of the organization. Just the same, he needs to have a hand in acquiring the players who will become the product the Niners put on the field.

But Erickson says he's comfortable with general manager Terry Donahue, consultant Bill Walsh and others in the team's personnel and scouting department taking responsibility for stocking the team's roster with talent. 

"I'm getting back to the NFL for one reason, because of the organization number one, and being able to deal with Terry and Bill, as far as the personnel is concerned," Erickson said. "We'll discuss all of those things - that's how that's going to work. I want to coach football. That's what I was hired to do. But obviously, you're dealing with personnel and we'll visit about that when it gets to that time."

Now that the NFL's free agency period has arrived, that time has come. Erickson has kept a low profile since becoming Niners coach, building his coaching staff and taking care of some of the myriad details that come with taking on such a huge commitment in the middle of February.

But if he's to feel comfortable with the influx of youth and talent the team expects to add to its roster this year, Erickson must step up now and get involved and make sure he a representative role in shaping his own roster. When he was fired after the 1998 season with the Seattle Seahawks, Erickson lamented that if he ever coached in the NFL again, he'd want more responsibility in player personnel.

Donahue sees no problem with the Niners coming to a happy medium with their new coach in this process.

"Our philosophy on personnel has been totally inclusive since I got here," he said. "The draft has never been a one-man show. It has always been the personnel people, the management team and the coaches working in concert. That has been consistent from Day One, and will be consistent as long as I am here. No coach wants to be excluded from personnel. There isn't a football coach in the country who would want to coach a team with no input. Every coach in the history of the 49ers that I know of has always had that."

Erickson must make sure that doesn't change now that he's around.


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