NFL Network analyst and former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci was on a conference call Tuesday with the Bay Area media on Tuesday to discuss the first Thursday Night Football game of the season.
And in case you were wondering, there will be plenty of pregame coverage on NFLN, starting at 3:00 p.m. PT with Thursday Night Kickoff presented by Sears. Rich Eisen will host the show and be joined by Mariucci, Marshall Faulk and former 49ers cornerback Deion Sanders.
But before he analyzed the 49ers-Bears matchup on the Thursday pre-game show, Mariucci broke things down for those on the conference call.
“We have a couple of teams here that are trying to find their way,” Mariucci explained. “The 49ers having lost four in a row and the Bears having lost three out of the last four. It’s an important game for both teams really to stay in the fight. It’s an evenly matched kind of game and it’ll be an interesting game. I like where both teams are headed in the future.”
Mariucci was particularly enamored with the rising stars in San Francisco, praising the team’s recent draft picks:
“When looking at their draft picks, especially early in the draft over the last handful of years, with Alex Smith coming back and starting again, I think his future can be bright. Vernon Davis is having a Pro Bowl kind of a year. We know Patrick Willis is a keeper. I mean this guy ought to be their star player and captain for the next 10 years. I like Joe Staley. I know he’s not playing, but the Chippewa from Central Michigan is going to be a very good player in this league and then all of a sudden here comes Michael Crabtree. When we watch the 49ers play, whether they win or lose, this is their future. These are their skill players that are going to be around for awhile and need to be developed into star players. I think they’re on the right track.”
Mariucci analyzed the 49ers signal caller even further, giving his opinions on why things have been difficult at times for Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick.
“I like Alex Smith,” Mariucci said. “I liked him coming out of college and it’s unfortunate he got injured and he had so many coordinators. What he needs in his life, and I’m not Dr. Phil okay, but what he needs in his life is some continuity – continuity with an offensive scheme. He needs a supporting cast that he gets to practice with and play with week in and week out and grow and develop with that bunch of guys in that system.”
While Mariucci admits he is no Dr. Phil, he does know what it’s like to be a coach going against his former team. Singletary will be facing the team that he played 12 seasons for on Thursday, but Mariucci believes Singletary’s situation is different than his when he faced the 49ers as the coach of the Detroit Lions.
“I didn’t make the Hall of Fame in San Francisco,” Mariucci said. “I came back a year later. I knew everybody on the field and half the people in the stands. Mike has been away from his team a long time now. [Singletary] doesn’t want this game to be about him. We all make it about him, but it’s not. It’s about the guys on the field banging heads and I think he’s got that in perspective.”
Tags: Alex Smith, Joe Staley, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Willis, Steve Mariucci, Vernon Davis
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