Mariucci, Gruden talk about 49ers, Raiders draft needs

With Steve Mariucci as coach of the 49ers and Jon Gruden with the Raiders, it was a good time for football fans in the Bay Area.

Since Mariucci was fired after the 2002 season, the 49ers have not made the playoffs and their record 32-56. The Raiders are 35-77 in the post-Gruden era.


Now, Mariucci and Gruden are on the same team. They’re analyst on the NFL Network and they’ll be mighty busy this weekend during the draft. Today, they appeared together on a conference call. Here’s what I asked:


Q: Here’s a question I’m sure you expected from someone from the Bay Area . . .  Jon, can you talk about the Raiders at No. 7, and, Steve, can you talk about the 49ers at No. 10? What does each of those teams need to accomplish in the draft to get in the ballgames in their respective division?


Mariucci: “Both of these teams have similar needs. It looks both teams can use a wide receiver and both teams can use some offensive line help to protect their quarterbacks, whoever the quarterbacks are going to be. The only caveat with the San Francisco 49ers, they might have to decide, ‘Do we go ahead and take a quarterback at 10, if one is available?’ If one is available, it would probably be Mark Sanchez, and that would be very tempting for them if he’s available at that point. Chances are there will be some teams that would be willing to get up there and grab him. But I don’t know if they’re going to go in that direction. Shaun Hill has exceeded expectations in San Francisco with a 7-3 starting record. And, of course, Alex Smith has redone his contract . . . first pick in the draft (and he) didn’t work out for various reasons, and they’re going to give him another chance. So maybe they don’t go with a quarterback. They have to replace (Jonas) Jennings up front. They’ve been sacked 55 times the past two years in a row. They can’t protect that quarterback, and they need to. My guess is they’re going to go with an offensive lineman, and there should be a good one there at the time.”


Gruden: “I think the Oakland Raiders . . . I worked out JaMarcus Russell, I spent a day down there, and his ability to throw the football is rare. And Johnnie Lee Higgins was the Raiders’ leading pass-catching wide receiver with 22 grabs. That’s unheard of, when you think of the Dolphins who had three different guys catch 50 or more. You got to get a weapon, in my opinion, for the young quarterback so they can evaluate him. I assume they’ll stare real hard at (Michael) Crabtree, should he fall to them – 40 touchdowns in two years, that would be hard to pass up. And Jeremy Maclin is a Joey Galloway-type player coming out of Missouri. He can fly, and I know that will appeal to the Raiders. And if either one of those two guys is there . . . (Or) they could decide to go with a big offensive tackle. They need help on the perimeter of their offensive line. Cornell Green played a long time on the right side. (Robert) Gallery has been a disappointment at left tackle. One of those two positions, I would clearly expect the Raiders to take. But, boy, they need a wide receiver, if you ask me.”


Mariucci: “And you know what’s going to be interesting over there, Gruds? We coached this guy, both of us, Jeff Garcia. Now he’s with the Raiders. All of a sudden, there is a veteran guy who can step in and Tom Cable is going to run the West Coast offense with Ted Tollner as his coordinator. It just seems like there’s going to be some pressure now on JaMarcus to have a good offseason, to study like crazy and be ready like crazy. I’m not suggesting there’s going to be a short hook, but you have a veteran guy who knows that system to step right in if things don’t happen early.”


Gruden: “I got to think they’re going to stick with JaMarcus because he’s got too much talent, they have way too much invested, and he’s too young of a player. They need to get him some help. Obviously, (Javon) Walker didn’t work out last year. They’ve had a number of players they’ve tried. I don’t know how you evaluate JaMarcus unless you surround him with the kind of players that some of the top quarterbacks in pro football are surrounded with.”


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