Hey, wait, this one might work out
© St. Petersburg Times
SALT LAKE CITY -- Another day, another name.
Another way to escape the blame.
Have you heard this one? Steve Mariucci. That's right. Mooch. Yeah, him. The guy from the 49ers.
He could be the Bucs coach.
In a move that is certain to force you to update your day-planners, Steve Mariucci has joined the conga line of big names to enter the Bucs' coaching derby. Gee. It must have been Friday.
This is how it goes with the Bucs' coaching search. Updates are like city busses. A different one arrives every 10 minutes. Here at the Winter Olympics, the Glazers have begun to resemble the American biathletes. They don't move very fast, and they don't shoot very straight and, for goodness' sake, the competition never seems to end.
In the world of name-dropping, however, it should be said that this one made some noise when it hit.
Mariucci is another of the instant-excitement names who could wipe the blush off the faces of the Bucs' ownership. You know the other names; they've already said no. There should be a membership for elite coaches; saying no to the Bucs should be an admission requirement.
So the nation keeps laughing, and the Bucs keep shopping.
Say this much for the Glazers, however. They appear to be sticking to the top shelf.
And this time, they may get their guy.
No, stop laughing.
This time, they're serious.
It is hard to blame those who roll their eyes at the image of the Bucs playing The Price is Right with the 49ers. As coaching searches go, this has been a tap-dance through a minefield. Things keep blowing up. So it's easy to make light of Mariucci and write him off as one more punch line in what has become a comedy routine. Who's next? Mike Martz?
Except for this: Mariucci can be had.
Yes, it's going to be tricky. The Bucs have to meet the 49ers' price, and Mariucci's, which is going to be delicate work. They have to convince him to leave the nation's West Coast for Florida's West Coast.
You get the feeling, however, the 49ers front office isn't exactly blocking the door with their bodies to keep Mariucci. A fair price, or maybe one that is unfair but tolerable, gets him. If you're the Glazers, that makes him worth the chase.
For whatever reason, the appreciation of the work done by Mariucci seems to grow the farther you travel from the 49ers' team offices. Both Bill Walsh and Terry Donahue, who run the front office, keep Mooch at a distance, as if he were raising their child but not doing a very good job at it.
Mariucci runs more than he passes, for goodness' sake. He's too easygoing, for goodness' sake. He was hired by Carmen Policy instead of Eddie DeBartolo, for goodness' sake. He wants to be everybody's buddy, the players' and the opponents' and the opposing coaches, for goodness' sake. Not only that, but there is a growing unappreciation of all the stories that say Mooch doesn't feel appreciated.
Mooch wants a contract extension, for instance. John York, who owns the team, thinks next offseason would be a fine time to discuss it.
So Mariucci will talk to the Bucs, and the Bucs will talk back. Then comes compensation. The going rate is a No. 1 draft pick. Another pick, say a third next season, sounds fair. Given the Bucs' dilemma, a one and a two would be swallowable.
This thing has to end sometime. This way, it ends happily. For those of you keeping score at home, we already have been through Dungy and Parcells and Lewis. Spurrier was gone before the search party went out. Saban was rejected early. Coaches you've barely heard of, Friedgen and Bellotti, have withdrawn their names on spec. Jimmy Johnson remains at sea. This just in: The heirs of Amos Alonzo Stagg have withdrawn his name, too.
Is Mariucci perfect? Of course not. He hasn't won a Super Bowl, and there are those in San Francisco as weary of playoff losses as those in Tampa Bay.
But looking at his offensive results (fourth in the NFL) and his scoring (third), there would be reason to be pumped. Hire him, and the Glazers will have put out the fire. They will have hired Jon Gruden with dark hair. They will have stopped the laughter and earned some applause.
For the short term, at least.
If it's up to me, I make the deal. If it's up to me, I pay the compensation.
Then I worry.
It's a rare person who can be a coach and a general manager. Now, more than ever, it's two jobs. A general manager in the NFL once told me that a person attempting both was "a recipe for disaster. Of 100 people doing it, 98 won't be able to pull it off."
That said, the Glazers will probably have to give Mariucci both jobs to get him. And both salaries. They will have to convince him he will be more appreciated around this bay than around that one.
In the end, it comes to this. Will the 49ers cave and give Mariucci his contract extension now? Will they give him a reason to stay or dare him to go? Will they block the door or hold it open?
The guess is the 49ers would rather deal with the Bucs than with Mariucci. They'd rather get a couple of draft picks and get someone more to the liking of Walsh and Donahue. They may say all the right things, but the early money says there will be no offer of an extension.
If that happens, it's going to be awfully difficult for Glazer, Mariucci or the 49ers to say no to the deal.
It says here, and now, Mariucci ends up as the Bucs coach.
But check with me again tomorrow. Things change, you know.
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