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With compensation set, the decision is Mariucci's

Bucs, 49ers come to agreement, leaving Tampa Bay to work out a deal for coach/GM.

By RICK STROUD and ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2002


TAMPA -- All that's left is for Steve Mariucci to leave the City by the Bay for Tampa Bay.

The Bucs have reached an agreement with the 49ers on a compensation package that will allow Mariucci to become coach and general manager of Tampa Bay.

The deal is similar to the one made in 1997 by the Jets when they sent four draft picks -- a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 -- to the Patriots in exchange for Bill Parcells.

With the Bucs and 49ers reaching an accord, the decision rests solely with Mariucci. He will be offered a long-term contract with the Bucs in a meeting with executive vice presidents Bryan and Joel Glazer that is expected to take place today in Southern California.

Mariucci has two years left on a contract to coach the 49ers that pays him approximately $2-million a season, but he easily can double that salary in a dual role as coach and GM of the Bucs.

If the Bucs and Mariucci reach an agreement, he could be introduced by the team as early as Monday.

The Bucs hope to recoup the losses of draft picks with a compensation package from the Falcons for Rich McKay.

McKay has one year left on his general manager contract that will pay him about $1.8-million. The Falcons will have to compensate the Bucs in order to get McKay. The Bucs are believed to be asking for a No. 1 pick this year and another high draft pick next year in exchange for McKay.

"I would hope if there's not going to be room for (McKay) in their organization that they would honor the work he's done and allow him to move on without making it too difficult for him," Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "He's clearly done a fine job in Tampa Bay. He's a very talented, bright young executive."

But the revelation that the Bucs are pursuing Mariucci to be coach and general manager could diminish the Bucs' leverage with the Falcons, since it seems the team is beginning to plan for life without McKay.

The Bucs did not speak with Mariucci on Saturday, as he attended the play Defending the Caveman in San Francisco with members of his coaching staff and their wives. Some of those coaches might follow him to Tampa Bay.

Of a possible deal, Mariucci told the San Jose Mercury News: "It hasn't been finalized yet. It's going to be very soon. We certainly don't want to drag this out."

Calls from the Times to the Glazer brothers were not returned Saturday.

According to 49ers general manager Terry Donahue, the Glazers called Thursday night to ask for permission to talk to Mariucci.

There is incentive for the 46-year-old Mariucci to leave San Francisco. Not only would he be assuming increased duties as general manager, but he would rid himself of rumors and speculation that he does not get along with senior members of the 49ers football operations, namely Donahue and consultant Bill Walsh.

The fact that Mariucci also has a tumultuous relationship with receiver Terrell Owens also might make him more dispensable to the team.

That the Bucs have asked to talk to Mariucci about the general manager position is a clear signal that McKay, who has held that title for seven years, likely is on his way out.

The relationship between the Glazers and McKay took what now appears to be an irreversible turn on Feb. 8, when the owners rejected his recommendation of Marvin Lewis, now defensive coordinator for the Redskins, for the Bucs' coaching position. McKay and Lewis had a deal in place and had begun putting together an offensive staff when the Glazers pulled the plug.

"Rich still has another year left on his contract and that becomes kind of a Rubik's Cube in Tampa Bay," Blank said. "The way things operate in this league ... if there's a difference between the owners, then the commissioner takes a role. My hope is it wouldn't reach that point."

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