Mariucci Fired in SF; Will Millen Pull Trigger?

It's all over. The long speculated firing of San Francisco 49'ers head coach Steve Mariucci is a done deal. Mariucci and the 49'ers brass could not agree on a contract or bounds of authority for the final year remaining on his contract and agreed to part company. Now, does Matt Millen have the guts to go out and get Detroit a proven winner?

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA)--The long rumored parting of company between Steve Mariucci and the San Francisco 49'ers became reality today. This afternoon it was announced that Mariucci and the 49'ers had agreed to part company with one-year remaining on his $2.1 million per season contract.

Mariucci grew tired of the meddling of several members of the 49'ers front office staff including General Manager Terry Donahue and 49'ers consultant Bill Walsh. Neither of them felt that Mariucci had done enough on the field with the talent they provided and wanted a change.

Mariucci to his credit refused to be a "lame-duck" coach and requested more authority be given him along with a contract that would place him among the league's highest paid coaches. Currently he ranks 19th out of 31 NFL coaches in salary. The 49'ers balked at his demands and the two sides agreed to part company.

Most titilating for Lions fans, the question now becomes where will Mariucci end up? There is no question that Jacksonville's Wayne Weaver covets the Iron Mountain, MI native and would love to get him patroling the sidelines in North Florida.

However, Mariucci has long been rumored to be coveted by Detroit Lions president and general manager Matt Millen. Does Millen have the guts to pull the trigger, fire current coach Marty Mornhinweg and hire Mariucci? If he does, it would be a masterstroke.

In six seasons, Mariucci posted a 47-33 record (.587) the best in the NFC West over that period. He set an NFL record for the fastest start at home in league history, winning his first 18 games, eclipsing the 13-0 mark John Madden had with Oakland in 1969-70. He also established an NFL record for consecutive wins by a rookie head coach with an 11-game winning streak in his first season in 1997.

But Mariucci was never able to pilot the 49'ers to a Super Bowl appearance and that proved to be his undoing. It wasn't due to a lack of playoff opportunities. "Mooch" took the Niners to the playoffs in 1997, the NFC Championship game in 1998, and a divisional championship game in 1999 before salary cap restraints forced San Francisco into wholesale changes and player dumping.

Still in 2003, Mariucci had the 49'ers back in the mix and completed the second biggest come-from-behind win ever. Down by 24 points, the 49'ers rallied to defeat the New York Giants 39-38 in a hotly contested and controversial finish when a pass interference call on a botched field goal attempt by New York was mishandled by officials.

Mariucci was rumored to be Millen's choice in 1999 when Millen was first mentioned to be Detroit's president and general manager. Millen's plan was to broom then coach Bobby Ross and install Mariucci and the west coast offense, but Ross nixed the plan, threatning to resign rather than give up personnel control.

Eventually Ross resigned anyway and Millen was brought in, but with Mariucci under contract, Millen grabbed his offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg as the next best option.

Now will Mariucci available and Mornhinweg having just one year remaining on his contract, will Millen do the deed? On things for sure, if Mariucci has to leave his beloved Bay Area, home beckons. He hosts a annual charity golf outing with his longtime friend, Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo. Indeed, had the deed been done earlier, it might have been Mariucci recruiting players for State instead of John L. Smith.

A seasoned veteran who's been in many pressure packed situations, Mariucci would be a natural to take a young rebuilding Lions team and get them back into the win column and even in contention for the playoffs.

While Marty Mornhiweg is a nice guy, he hasn't exactly shown the type of leadership and coaching skill that would make anyone think he can bring Detroit a championship. Mariucci would provide instant leadership, credibility and a champions mentality, all things Detroit's franchise is sorely lacking.

Here's betting Detroit will never do what they should do now that the opportunity is Marty Mornhinweg and hire Steve Mariucci.

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