Jose Cortez will live to see another day as the 49ers kicker. One day after missing what would have been the game winning kick against the San Diego Chargers, Cortez received a temporary reprieve from Steve Mariucci.
"We haven't made a decision on that just yet," said Mariucci Monday. "We will continue to evaluate our options and we will discuss it this afternoon when I meet with my coaches and Terry (Donahue)."
Mariucci said the team really has three options: continue with Cortez, go with Jeff Chandler or see if there is anyone else out there that could come in and make an immediate impact.
"Obviously you have to have confidence in your kicker," added Mariucci. "We drafted Jeff Chandler for a reason so we've got some confidence in him. Jose is a guy the team likes. Sure he's missed some field goals for us, but he's won some games for us too."
While Cortez is in the spotlight at the moment, he is not the only kicker Mariucci is concerned with. Punter Jason Baker has had his ups-and-downs this season and Mariucci was not pleased with his efforts in San Diego.
"He's been inconsistent this year and he knows that," Mariucci said. "He had three touchbacks yesterday when we needed to pin them deep. He needs to stick those inside the 20."
Injury List A Long One
Mariucci opened his press conference by rattling off an injury list that included 13 players. Particularly hard hit is the 49ers offensive line that had four players show up on the report.
Derrick Deese will be questionable for the Eagles game with an ankle injury that will require an MRI and forced him to miss most of the game. Matt Willig, Deese's replacement, injured his neck and had a slight concussion yesterday. He is listed as probable.
Jeremy Newberry re-injured the finger he broke earlier in the year on his right hand. He will undergo more exams to determine the extent of the damage, but Mariucci expects him to play. Newberry opened the year by snapping with his left hand in the first four weeks.
Rookie Eric Heitmann is listed as probable with a knee bruise.
He's done some good things for us. Then he's missed a few now for us. He's well liked, well respected in our locker room. But we certainly needed his field goal today."
"That's why this one hurts, because usually we're good at the end," Mariucci said. "Usually we're good in the clutch. That wasn't the case today."
"I think his confidence is OK," 49er Coach Steve Mariucci said. "Who knows what goes on inside one's head. We certainly needed his field goal today."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Jose Cortez calmly leaned on his locker at the San Francisco 49ers' training complex on Monday, fully aware he might be kicked out at any moment.
A day after Cortez's 41-yard overtime field goal attempt went well wide of the uprights in San Diego, the 49ers made no decision on the fate of their star-crossed kicker, who missed a potential game-winning kick for the second time in three weeks.
"This is a job. If I don't produce, they're going to have to find somebody else who can," Cortez said with a shrug. "You never know. I might not be here tomorrow, but we'll see."
Even after Cortez failed to capitalize on his teammates' efforts again, the 49ers rallied in support. The 20-17 loss to San Diego cost San Francisco (7-3) a chance to match Green Bay and Tampa Bay for the NFL's best record.
"Right now, given our situation, Jose is the only guy who can handle the job," quarterback Jeff Garcia said. "He's our guy. I'm sticking by him. I know most of this team, if not all of this team, is sticking by him."
Garcia criticized the competition between Cortez and rookie Jeff Chandler, the fourth-round draft pick who has remained inactive on the 49ers' roster all season.
The 49ers gave a $330,000 signing bonus and a three-year contract to Chandler before Cortez decisively won their battle during training camp, but the Niners kept Chandler on their roster -- looking squarely over Cortez's shoulder.
"If I was the general manager of this team, I wouldn't have two kickers on this team," Garcia said. "That's part of the issue that began way before this season started. I shouldn't even say those things, because I'm not the general manager, but it's a situation that needs to be dealt with."
But to many 49ers fans, the kick was the last straw in 1 1/2 tumultuous seasons in San Francisco for Cortez. Though his powerful leg has been remarkably effective at times, Cortez has failed repeatedly in pressure situations with kicks that were left, right, short or low.
Cortez kicked wide on an easy 27-yard attempt on the final play of regulation against Oakland on Nov. 3 -- though the 49ers won that game in overtime.
On Monday, the 49ers' braintrust was mulling whether to promote Chandler, sign a free-agent kicker -- or let Cortez keep his job, as coach Steve Mariucci did two weeks earlier.
"We will continue to talk about that," Mariucci said. "We haven't made any official decisions yet. We begin discussing those sort of things today. We'll talk through it."
The 49ers have two days off this week leading up to a home game against Philadelphia next Monday night. Any move probably will be made before San Francisco returns to practice on Thursday.
"I can't be thinking about it," Cortez said. "The only thing I can do is be grateful that I'm still here. After the first game of the season, I went 13-for-13. Now, you miss some field goals, and all the pressure is back to me. I had a couple of bad games, but it's still my job."
Though Cortez has no shortage of detractors -- most of whom are likely to boo him relentlessly if he kicks against the Eagles -- the players have been almost uniformly supportive of Cortez during his successes and his struggles. Even Chandler has supported Cortez, and the two have a friendly relationship.
Chandler, who was Steve Spurrier's last kicker at Florida, would welcome the challenge of the starting job.
"I like the pressure. I like getting out there and knowing everybody is watching me," Chandler said. "I'd feel good knowing that it's my job for at least a week. ... When Jose missed that field goal, I started getting ready and focused. It's sad if it has to happen that way, but that's the NFL."
By Mike Bruton
Knight Ridder Newspapers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- You'd think San Francisco 49ers coach Steve Mariucci would be relieved to face the Philadelphia Eagles without quarterback Donovan McNabb, but he isn't.
Certainly, things would be different if McNabb were missing only Monday night's game. This is one of those "statement" games, a battle to determine whether the Eagles and the 49ers belong near the top of the NFL heap.
It's the seriousness of the injury McNabb suffered Sunday, a broken fibula that could mean the end of his season, that bothers Mariucci.
"It's unfortunate they're going to lose him for a while," Mariucci said Monday at the Niners' training facility. "I hate to see anybody get hurt. Of course, when it's a quarterback of that caliber, it really impacts not just Philly, but the league."
Sunday was a tough day for quarterbacks.
Pittsburgh's Tommy Maddox suffered a spinal injury and is hospitalized, and Denver's Brian Griese suffered a second-degree tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Since the Steelers and the Broncos are in the run for postseason berths, Mariucci sees the fate of those teams as similar to that of the Eagles.
Just when the season is at a point where the contenders separate themselves, three key players are down.
"That changes the complexion of a team sometimes," Mariucci said. "Then again, you've got teams that rally around the other quarterback.
"Koy Detmer is not a rookie," Mariucci said of McNabb's understudy. "We've had Ty (Koy's older brother) around here. We know Koy is going to know the offense inside and out. They'll rally around him."
Mariucci spoke about McNabb with reverence, about his ability to complete 20 of 25 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles' 38-14 victory over Arizona, even though his ankle was broken early in the game.
He spoke as if McNabb's courage was all the more reason that he wished the quarterback hadn't been hurt.
"It was amazing to watch (Sunday) night and see Donovan McNabb hobbling around on that ankle," Mariucci said. "Playing the way he did and sucking it up, to have a fractured fibula and play, let alone play very well -- it just shows what kind of guy he is. That guy represents a lot of these guys who just play hurt and suck it up for the good of the team."
Mariucci was also talking about a lot of his players. He has an injury list as long as a McNabb bomb.
Safety Zack Bronson (foot) and running back Terry Jackson (knee) are out. Linebackers Jamie Winborn (knee) and Saleem Rasheed (knee) are doubtful. Offensive tackle Derrick Deese (ankle), fullback Fred Beasley (foot, groin, concussion), and tight end Eric Johnson (back) are questionable. Center Jeremy Newberry (hand), linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (ribs), guard Eric Heitmann (knee), safety John Keith (shoulder), wide receiver Terrell Owens (heel), offensive tackle Matt Willig (concussion), linebacker Quincy Stewart (concussion), and safety Tony Parrish (hip) are probable for Monday's game.
And kicker Jose Cortez, who missed a 41-yard field goal in overtime of Sunday's 20-17 loss to San Diego, could be replaced.
"We will continue to talk about that," Mariucci said. "We haven't made an official decision."
But later, he added: "You've got to be confident in the 40-plus area. You have to like your chances inside of 45 yards, I think."
The Niners have rookie kicker Jeff Chandler, whom they drafted this year in the fourth round, but Mariucci didn't seem ready to put Chandler in a game-winning situation on the Monday night stage.
The game against the Eagles represents a chance for the Niners to reclaim a golden opportunity they lost against the Chargers.
A victory over San Diego would have left the Niners at the top of the league with Green Bay and Tampa Bay, at 8-2.
"There are only two teams in the league that have a better record than we do," Mariucci said. "Green Bay and Tampa are 8-2, and they play each other (on Sunday). We sit 7-3, so does Philly, and we happen to play each other. So it's going to get interesting here -- just like the league wants it."
Denver, San Diego and New Orleans are 7-3. Atlanta is 6-3-1, and Miami, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Oakland and the New York Giants are 6-4.
"It would have been nice to share the same record with Green Bay and Tampa, but it's not the case," Mariucci said. "We're getting to a point where we'd like to be right there, stay at the top. It's easier said than done.
"It's going to come down to the last few weeks, I'm sure. A lot of the teams that are in it play each other.