Steve Mariucci may be gone, but Terrell Owens is still angry.
Mariucci, who was often at odds with Owens during his tenure as head coach in San Francisco, faces the 49ers for the first time since being fired in January as his Detroit Lions visit 3Com Park.
Mariucci was fired just three days after the Niners lost to Tampa Bay in the divisional playoffs. Less than three weeks later, he signed a five-year deal with the Lions.
“I guess it’s different, let’s be honest, than going to Houston or Jacksonville,” Mariucci said of his return. “I’ll know half the people in the stands and I’ll know the players.”
Mariucci went 60-43 in six years with San Francisco, including a 3-4 mark in the playoffs. He guided the team through a major rebuilding process in the middle of his stint.
Team owner John York cited philosophical differences as the reason for letting Mariucci go, but Mariucci’s failure to win a Super Bowl most likely played a major role in his firing.
“I don’t enjoy talking about it,” Mariucci said.
However, the 49ers are probably more concerned with their All-Pro wide receiver than their former coach.
During an embarrassing 35-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, Owens left the field after a failed fourth-and-1 running play and yelled at offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.
Owens, who needs just two touchdown catches to join Jerry Rice as the only other receiver in team history with 75, had launched into a similar sideline tirade the week before in the 49ers’ loss to Cleveland.
Owens often argued with Mariucci regarding the coach’s offensive philosophy.
After the Minnesota game, in which he caught just five passes for 55 yards and no touchdowns, Owens blasted his team in a postgame interview, claiming he needed to be utilized more in San Francisco’s offense.
Owens even went after quarterback Jeff Garcia—the first time he has ever done so—stopping just short of suggesting he be benched.
“I’m out there playing,” Owens said. “I’m out there beating guys. What more can I do? I’m out there playing 100 percent. All of America can see what’s going on.”
When the quarterbacks and receivers met to watch film Monday, Garcia and Owens didn’t speak to one another.
“Either we’re all in this together, or some changes have to be made,” said Garcia, who went a disappointing 11-of-23 for just 108 yards against the Vikings. “This is a team effort, and there’s not any one individual that is above the team.”
The Lions are doing their best to forget all of the storylines and focus on snapping their 18-game road losing streak.
“We can’t fall into the trap of worrying about all the things that the media think are important,” Lions defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. “We need to take care of ourselves and not pay attention to anything else.”
Detroit is also trying to deflect rumors that quarterback Joey Harrington has an injured shoulder.
A sideline report during the Lions’ Sept. 21 loss to Minnesota, in which Harrington suffered a dislocated finger on his throwing hand, mentioned that he had strained his right shoulder. Earlier this week, tight end Mikhael Ricks mentioned Harrington’s “sore shoulder” during a radio interview.
However, Harrington insists that he is fine.
“There’s no story there,” Harrington said. “I’ve got the normal bumps and bruises that come from playing football, but I didn’t do anything to my shoulder.”
The Lions lost 20-16 to the Denver Broncos last Sunday.