SAN FRANCISCO -– Steve Mariucci was the last coach under former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. And he was the man who coached wide receiver Terrell Owens for the longest period of time.
And Mariucci envisions at some point DeBartolo and Owens will be linked as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he said on Thursday.
DeBartolo and Owens are finalists for the Hall of Fame. The 46-member board of selectors will meet early Saturday morning to elect the Class of 2016.
Mariucci was hired as 49ers coach in 1997, and DeBartolo was the team owner for one season before stepping aside and later serving an NFL suspension. DeBartolo pleaded guilty to a felony for failure to report an extortion attempt from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards. He never regained ownership. In 2000, DeBartolo and his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, reached a settlement that gave her control of the 49ers.
DeBartolo has been a finalist three previous times. He is a finalist under the classification as a “contributor.” Hall of Fame officials have instructed voters to not to weigh DeBartolo’s legal issues when considering his candidacy.
When asked if DeBartolo is a Hall of Famer, Mariucci said, “I’m hoping and I’m praying, yes he is. He’s just got to get voted in. This is the year. This is in San Francisco. What a perfect induction that would be. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.”
Mariucci said DeBartolo’s success as a five-time Super Bowl-winning owner along with his influence in the league should merit his induction.
“You have to have some sort of significant contribution to the game and to the league and he’s certainly has had that,” said Mariucci, an NFL Network analyst. “In my humble opinion -- and maybe I’m biased -- he has been deserving for a long time. I think it’s time for people who vote to say, ‘This is it. He’s waited long enough.’
“He’s one of a kind. He’s helped make this game as great as it is right now. Coaches study coaches. Players study players. I think owners study the way he did things, not only in football but in other sports, for ‘This is how you build an organization.’”
Owens, in his first year of eligibility, is also a finalist. He ranks second in NFL history with 15,934 receiving yards, third with 153 receiving touchdowns, and sixth with 1,078 career receptions.
“T.O. will get in,” Mariucci said. “If it’s not this year, it’ll next year, and if it’s not next year, it’ll be the year after. But his numbers support Hall of Fame greatness. There’s no debate about that.”
But the debate with Owens is that he quickly wore out his welcome wherever he played. Mariucci was Owens' coach in the first six of his eight seasons with 49ers. Then, Owens had short stints with Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati. Those teams ended their unions with Owens while he was still producing at high levels.
“I’d never say we were better without him. I would not say that,” Marriucci said. “Maybe have a little different harmony in the locker room or whatever that is. But on the field, you needed that guy. He was very productive.”