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Seifert Leaves 49ers With Bear of a Coach

You are Steve Mariucci, and you will be named coach of the San Francisco 49ers today, and your first order of business will be to set the ground rules: “George Seifert, you can look over my left shoulder; Bill Walsh, you have the right shoulder.”

Talk about your crowded front office. With Wednesday’s stunning resignation of George Seifert, who had a career record of 108-35, the 49ers now lead the league in ex-coaches with Super Bowl rings who have nothing to do but hang around their old team and second-guess everyone.

Seifert, 56, reached 100 victories faster than any other coach in NFL history and had the NFL’s all-time best winning percentage as a head coach (.755), but when it came time for assurances that his contract would be extended beyond 1997, the 49ers told him he was about to become a lame duck.

“It’s a big surprise, a shock,” cornerback Tyronne Drakeford said. “I don’t know if it was something planned or a spur-of-the-moment-type thing.

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“From what I understand, Seifert is always under pressure to win the Super Bowl. It keeps mounting each year he doesn’t win it. That’s part of the business. You take it as it comes.”

Yes, it’s getting to be late January, the Super Bowl is about to played without San Francisco in attendance, and the 49ers are freaking out. This annual event marked the hiring of Walsh a year ago to be offensive consultant and a general annoyance to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

Trestman’s current status? President Carmen Policy pushed the microphone in front of Seifert, who said, “I’m no longer head coach,” and then shoved it before owner Eddie DeBartolo, who announced without much mercy, “He’s gone.”

That’s the way the 49ers do business when they don’t get the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Quarterback Joe Montana finished his career in Kansas City.

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This time around it was Seifert’s turn. The 49ers fell to the Green Bay Packers, 35-14, in the playoffs, and after taking a fishing trip to relax, Seifert returned asking for a contract extension much like the one the Chiefs gave to Coach Marty Schottenheimer this week.

The 49ers balked. More than that, they suggested hiring Mariucci, 41, 6-6 in his only year as head coach at California, including six losses in the team’s last seven games, as 49ers’ offensive coordinator next season and then replacing Seifert after the 1997 season.

Mariucci, a student of Green Bay Coach Mike Holmgren, who earned his coaching degree in the 49ers’ organization, has been credited with developing quarterback Brett Favre. Several teams had Mariucci pegged as a can’t-miss NFL head coach who needed a few more years of seasoning at the college level before getting the call.

The 49ers would have liked to wait another year too, but once Seifert’s feelings were hurt, they had no choice. They have yet to work out a contract with Mariucci, but Favre confirmed Mariucci’s hiring after talking with Mariucci’s wife, Gayle.

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“I think it shows that players like him and that’s carried over in an organization that believes that he can relate to his players,” Favre said. “There’s no doubt the bulk of my success in the NFL has been due to Steve Mariucci. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his coaching. . . . He’s a good offensive-minded coach.”

And the 49ers love offense, so much so, that they will go with the unproven Mariucci. And what does that tell you? Bill Walsh won’t be far away.

At the same time, it’s Steve Young’s turn to become Mr. Insecure. Will Mariucci’s hiring mean a shift in philosophy and a stronger commitment to re-sign quarterback Elvis Grbac? Will Mariucci, whose strength is developing quarterbacks, be given Grbac to tutor this season in paving the way for Young’s departure a year from now?

No such ambiguity for Pete Carroll, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. Mariucci’s hiring tells you the 49ers do not consider Carroll a potential head coach, although he already has been interviewed by the Rams. The Rams, of course, will probably hire him.

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So Seifert’s out, Trestman’s undoubtedly a goner, Carroll’s probably leaving and Young’s status is unclear. You can never tell with the 49ers when they can’t win the big one, and that’s why Seifert was already talking like a man walking the plank early this season. Crazy, crazy stuff. The man has won more games than any other 49er head coach, Walsh included, was two for two in Super Bowls, and he was talking job security after the 49ers finished 12-4.

“It’s not a bombshell, not a shock, but something of a surprise,” Policy said in discussing Seifert’s resignation. “First of all, I concur in the evaluation of all you people here today that the San Francisco 49er organization is in deep need of psychotherapy.”

What could they be thinking? With teams everywhere scrambling to find quality coaches, the 49ers have shown a willingness to let the very best get away.

“My wife first told me when I got this job, ‘Don’t screw it up.’ I don’t think I did,” Seifert said. “I’m proud of the things we accomplished during my watch.”

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Seifert, who chose to resign, not retire, as he pointed out at his press conference, was due to draw a $1.6-million salary this year. The 49ers told Seifert he can remain on the payroll by assisting the new head coach, helping in the campaign for a new stadium and fetching coffee for Walsh.

“It’s time for some new blood,” Seifert said, and how soon before the Rams, Falcons and Saints are on the telephone seeking his services? “I’m not saying that my blood’s stagnant or not filled with energy--it is. But, at the same time, let’s pass this on to somebody else and let them enjoy some of the opportunities I have had to enjoy.

“I’m not saying I won’t coach again; I’m not closing any career doors.”

Seifert, born in San Francisco, was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator during Walsh’s reign, which included three Super Bowl titles. He replaced Walsh in January 1989, led the team to a Super Bowl in his first year, then again in 1994.

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“It’s a cold day in January,” tackle Steve Wallace said. “I’m left speechless. I don’t know the reason. He’s a great coach, a class person. It’s a sad day for a lot of 49ers fans.”

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Seifert’s Legacy

All-time winning percentage (regular season):

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1. George Seifert: 98-30 (.766)

2. John Madden: 103-32-7 (.750)

3. Vince Lombardi: 96-34-6 (.728)

4. George Allen: 116-47-5 (.705)

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5. Don Shula: 328-156-6 (.676)

Best regular-season winning percentage since 1989:

1. San Francisco 49ers: 98-30 (.766)

2. Buffalo Bills: 85-43 (.664)

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3. Kansas City Chiefs: 81-46-1 (.637)

4. Dallas Cowboys: 78-50 (.609)

4. Pittsburg Steelers: 78-50 (.609)


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