Skip to comments.49ers fire head coach, general manager (Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue)
Posted on 01/05/2005 6:47:44 PM PST by Dan from Michigan
49ers fire head coach, general manager
1/5/2005, 9:18 p.m. ET
By GREG BEACHAM
The Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Coach Dennis Erickson and general manager Terry Donahue presided over some of the darkest days in the proud history of the San Francisco 49ers, who lost games, good players and incalculable respect in recent years.
They insisted they had a plan to restore the franchise to glory, but owner John York decided it's time for a whole new plan.
York fired Erickson and dismissed Donahue on Wednesday, just three days after the 49ers finished with the NFL's worst record. York made a rare public appearance to announce the dramatic changes to his team, which went 2-14 to match the worst season in San Francisco history.
"Sometimes, even when everyone works very hard, the formula for winning just isn't there," York said. "We're going to use the extreme disappointment that we all have felt as our turning point.
"We know how much passion 49ers fans have, and we understand that this is unacceptable to our fans. We need our fans to know that it is equally unacceptable to us. We take our responsibility as owners seriously."
Erickson went 9-23 in two seasons as Steve Mariucci's successor, never reaching the postseason. He won two national championships at the University of Miami during a successful college coaching career, but is 40-56 in six seasons as an NFL coach in San Francisco and Seattle.
Erickson got the news in a meeting with York on Wednesday morning.
"There really wasn't much more than that, other than I thanked him for the opportunity," Erickson said. "They wanted to go their direction, I've got to go my direction. It's a divorce. It's final now."
Erickson had three years and $7.5 million remaining on the contract he signed in 2003. The hefty financial package was thought to be the biggest obstacle to York's desire to make changes, but the owner decided to shoulder the expense in total, paying Erickson about $1.39 million for every victory with the 49ers.
The new coach and general manager will get to use the first overall pick in the draft, but the 49ers' reputation has declined steadily since York and his wife took over in 1999. York believes he can fix things and boost the 49ers' attempts to raise support for a new stadium by hiring new people who can quickly transform his club.
York said he plans to hire a winning head coach with NFL experience before replacing his general manager, though he doesn't expect one man to hold both jobs. He has a list of fewer than 10 candidates, including a few coaches still working for playoff teams.
York didn't deny an interest in speaking to former Patriots and Jets coach Pete Carroll, who wrapped up his second straight national championship with Southern California on Tuesday night.
"I think we all watched the game last night. That was a tremendous game," York said. "They were very dominant, and he's a great coach."
Donahue, the longtime UCLA coach, was the hand-picked successor to Bill Walsh, who led the team's rebuilding from a similar salary cap-induced funk five years ago. Just four months after Donahue signed a four-year contract extension reportedly worth about $5 million, he reached a financial settlement with York.
"I am very disappointed that I do not have the opportunity to remain with the 49ers," Donahue said in a statement. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind with the improvement in the salary cap situation, the return of a lot of injured players along with a good draft, that we would have experienced a great deal of success in the future."
Since 2001, Donahue has been criticized for mediocre drafts and unorthodox strategies, from his difficult salary cap relief plan to his reliance on unusual player evaluation methods.
After last Sunday's 21-7 loss to New England, York spent two days interviewing Erickson and Donahue while he mulled his decision.
The 49ers won five championships from 1981-94, but on York's watch they've had just two winning seasons and won just one playoff game. Last month, York said he was extremely disappointed with the 49ers' season, and he expected to make big changes to the organization.
Erickson is the second coach fired by York in slightly less than two years, following his abrupt dismissal of Mariucci days after a second-round playoff loss at Tampa Bay.
While Erickson took much of the heat for the 49ers' record, many of their shortcomings were due to a stripped-down roster assembled by Donahue, who waived several veterans and pared the payroll last summer to rid the 49ers of "dead money" being paid to players no longer with the team.
San Francisco had nearly $29 million in dead money this season despite the departures of Terrell Owens, Jeff Garcia, Garrison Hearst and Derrick Deese and Ron Stone.
The 49ers knew they would struggle this season with that young, inexpensive roster.
"Nobody thought we'd be sitting here at 2-14," York said. "Absolutely nobody."
Many of San Francisco's best players missed much of the year with injuries, including linebacker Julian Peterson, center Jeremy Newberry and quarterback Tim Rattay, who started just nine games. Eleven players finished the season on injured reserve.
Erickson, the 14th coach in San Francisco history, is 144-57-1 as a head coach at five universities, but never had a winning season in six years in the NFL.
Erickson said this season was the toughest of his life, and though he expressed his desire to return, he probably isn't heartbroken to be leaving an organization that seemed to get more dysfunctional with each loss. Last month, Erickson even met with Mississippi officials about their vacant head coaching position.
Erickson said he doesn't want to get out of coaching. Syracuse has the only remaining Division I-A vacancy.
Erikson is a geek but he was less to blame than York and Donahue......I say we find a way to steal back Holmgren from Seattle........he is an SF guy anyway and would be back home.......Carroll never proved himself at the NFL level........just ask Dennis, super great at college, terrible in the pros.......
You must have read my post, before I wrote it--ha, ha
I agree about Holmgren, I think that would be excellent--he just never lookes right in Seattle---
Also, I think Pete Carroll wasn't treated very kindly in the pros, and just like Steve Spurrier found out, being a coach of a national championship contender every year has GOT to be one of the cushiest jobs in sports---
Besides, he looks happier there than he did in pros---
hopefully the rams can help make holmgren available
by beating the seahawks.
god if it were not for the money I think i'd like college coaching more myself.......Erikson was good at it....and ever since we lost Eddie D the owner to his fraud BS, the Yorks have destroyed this once great organization
lol.........somehow it is really hard to include in my vocabulary "Go Rams".........but good luck to you all the same....St. Louis was good for you casue you never beat us when you were in Anahiem......haha.....just kidding, you have schooled us the last umpteen years.
i'm a season ticket holder, cheap seats where you need a sherpa guide to reach the summit, but still i'm in.
love the rams dearly but my heart will never get over bidwill taking my football cardinals away from st. louis.
and ha ha's are appropriate, the la rams beating my cards in 75 or was it 76 in the 1st round is still painful.
jim hart, mel grey, terry metcalf, dan dierdorf, j.v cain (before he died on his 28th b'day at training camp) my 4 year old and i were there and he picked her up cause she was wearing a #88 cain jersey. that darn jack youngblood batting down a hart pass and intercepting it.
oh well GO RAMS!!!! (fits my vocabulary o.k.) :^)
hey I know exactly how you feel........I was raised in Oakland and a loyal Raider fan up until Al took them to la la land......after ten years down there they came back but they were not the same team and plus i had switched to the niners cause the raiders were traitors.......LA turned them into a bunch of pansy's......hell, before going to LA the Raiders were the most feared team in football along with Pittsburgh in the 70S....hell.......that was a blow ...i think we walked around in a daze for several weeks.....
i know that running a team is a buisness but there should be laws prohibiting owners from holding cities hostage unless the attendance is so low that for survival of the team you have to move. but that gives owners like bidwill more excuses to let the franchise fail so he can elicit other owners support to move.
at least al davis always tried to keep the raiders competative, salary cap is the baromiter today. your front office better be good at playing that game and evaluating lower tiered talent. i also use to root for the raiders in the AFC. use to love lamonica, big ben davidson, ted the stork hendrick, howie, and all the assasins in the secondary.
good jawin' at ya.
you too.....you got em right.......and the funny part about that is up till that point, it was the Oakland Raiders that had the longest sell out list in the NFL.......they had been sold out since the 70's and you could hardly get a ticket.......he left for a bigger meida market the lousy greedy bastard.........see ya later
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