SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Coach Steve Mariucci was fired by the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday after years of growing division with owner John York.
Just a few days after Mariucci’s fourth trip to the playoffs in his six seasons ended in a 31-6 loss to Tampa Bay, York released Mariucci from the final year of his contract. The men hugged Wednesday morning after a 90-minute meeting at team headquarters.
“It’s a very emotional and unpleasant situation for both of them,” general manager Terry Donahue said. “Dr. York has a very strong idea about how he wants the 49ers structured. … This is a philosophical split between what John wanted to do and what Steve wanted.”
According to Donahue, Mariucci wanted a bigger role in the 49ers’ football decisions, including the position of vice president of football operations. But Mariucci’s agent, Gary O’Hagan, said Mariucci never made those demands.
York and Mariucci had a phone conversation Monday that went poorly, and York flew from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, to California to complete the first coaching change since he took charge of the team in 1998.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the NFL’s only other coaching vacancy, and Mariucci was thought to be a prime candidate for the job. But Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards said the team doesn’t have any plans to interview Mariucci, and he isn’t considered a candidate.
“I was as shocked as anyone else,” Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver told The Associated Press. “His agent told us that Steve’s interest right now is taking some time off and doing some broadcasting.”
Dennis Green, who coached the Minnesota Vikings from 1992-01, is a logical candidate to replace Mariucci. Green was on 49ers consultant Bill Walsh’s staff when Walsh was coaching the NFL team and Stanford.
Mariucci went 57-39 in San Francisco, with a remarkably brief rebuilding period sandwiched between four seasons of double-digit victories. This season, San Francisco went 10-6 and reclaimed the NFC West title before making the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history to beat the New York Giants 39-38.
But no matter the owner or the circumstances, ruthless firings are nothing new for an organization that always expects to add to its collection of five championships.
San Francisco parted ways in 1997 with George Seifert — who won two Super Bowls — after the 49ers lost in the second round of the playoffs.
For as much success as Mariucci had, Walsh and Seifert led San Francisco to a total of five Super Bowl championships, the first in 1982 and the most recent in 1995.
Mariucci made $2.1 million this season, 19th among the NFL’s 32 head coaches and a bargain rate for a coach with his track record.
But he angered the 49ers’ front office last winter by campaigning for a new contract through the media, and then talking to Notre Dame and the Buccaneers about their vacancies. The teams worked out a compensation package, but when Mariucci waffled on his decision, Tampa Bay hired Jon Gruden instead.