Garcia: 49ers' Ouster of Harbaugh is Similar to Mariucci's

Former 49ers QB sees it as a mistake that could haunt the franchise for quite a while

New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula hasn’t yet had a chance to win a game.

It could be that when September rolls around, Tomsula’s 49ers will get off to a quick start, get some momentum and roll toward the playoffs.

But many 49ers observers don’t expect that to happen. After the team parted ways with ultra-successful head coach Jim Harbaugh – and then saw key players such as Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati and Chris Borland leave -- many fans and media believe the Niners are in for some hard times. They believe the 2011-2013 years of success under Harbaugh won’t be replicated under a new post-Harbaugh regime.

Count former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia among the doubters.

Last week Garcia, speaking at an athletic department event at Humboldt State University in Arcata, said he believes that parting with Harbaugh was a huge mistake.

“It’s unfortunate because you look at a team that was highly competitive, that was on the cusp, that went to a Super Bowl, that was a play from winning a Super Bowl, that was a play away from going to another Super Bowl, and now where are they going to be?” he asked, according to the Eureka Times-Standard.

Garcia said the team will now have to adapt and evolve under a new coaching staff, new schemes and philosophies and new personnel while trying to stay competitive in the ultra-competitive NFC West against the likes of Seattle, Arizona and St. Louis.

“It will be interesting to see how they deal with the situation that they’ve created,” said Garcia.

Garcia has compared the ouster of Harbaugh to the firing of Steve Mariucci as 49ers head coach after he had taken the Niners to the playoffs two straight years. He was let go after a 10-6 season in 2002 in which San Francisco reached the second round of the playoffs. Garcia was Mariucci’s starting quarterback.

The firing of Mariucci put the 49ers in an eight-season slump in which the team churned through head coaches Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary. They were dark times for a franchise that had been among the NFL’s elite since 1981 when Bill Walsh took the team to its first of five Super Bowl championships.

“I see a lot of similarities,” Garcia said of the Mariucci and Harbaugh ousters. “Mariucci went through a situation where he had an older football team, had to turn over a lot of players. All of a sudden we were a playoff team again. Went back to back playoff years. Get into the second round, lose to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, and then they fire him. There were a lot of questions as to why.”

Similar questions were asked after Harbaugh was forced out after going 36-11-1 in four seasons.

Head coaches who can consistently win in the NFL aren’t easily found, and Harbaugh certainly proved he could win. But conflicts with upper management and ownership sealed his fate.

Now fans and observers such as Garcia are wondering if the next few seasons will be like those dark times of 2003-2010.

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