Thursday, December 02, 1999

Niners will start Garcia at QB

AP Sports Writer

        SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Three weeks after being demoted, Jeff Garcia is getting another chance to start at quarterback for the slump-ridden San Francisco 49ers.

        Garcia reclaimed the job from Steve Stenstrom, who was winless in three starts and without a touchdown pass for the 49ers (3-8), losers of seven straight overall.

        Garcia will be making his first start since Nov. 7 and sixth of the year Sunday at Cincinnati (2-10).

        “We had some success with him early. Then his performance tapered off and we changed to Steve,” 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said Wednesday. “I visited with both of them and mentioned to them we're going to change it back and see if we can't be more productive.

        “At times, we play well and at times we find ways to sputter, so it's another attempt to try to spark our offense, score more points and get some touchdowns.”

        Garcia, benched after completing less than 50 percent of his passes in his last three starts, was playing quarterback the last time San Francisco had a win on Oct. 3. He beat Tennessee 24-22 in his first career start after taking over for Steve Young, who went down with a concussion the week before at Arizona. Young is not expected to play again this season.

        The change back to Garcia comes amid a drought that has seen San Francisco score just one offensive touchdown in the last five games. The 49ers also have failed to score in double figures their last four games for the first time in franchise history.

        “My confidence level is strong,” Garcia said. “I'm excited about this opportunity and I'm excited to be back in there and playing the game.

        “Really, we're in a no-lose situation. We've already struggled enough as a team. We're just going to go out there and try to do the things that we can do without trying to put too much emphasis on trying to make every play perfect. I think that's the approach we have to take, to try to enjoy these last five weeks, make the most of them and see where it takes us.”

        Stenstrom said he didn't think he had played that badly and was disappointed to return to the bench.

        “But I've felt along it was a coach's decision,” said Stenstrom, who is 1-9 lifetime as a starter in the NFL. “I'm going to continue to work and do what I can to help this team win. I feel like we were close to having some success but close doesn't count.”

        Meanwhile, the 49ers this week will try to avoid the ignominy of an eighth straight loss, which would match their longest losing streak since 1980.

        “This is definitely a frustrating year, one that I don't think any of us who have been involved with the 49ers expected,” safety Tim McDonald said.

        “It's like we're a wounded shark. We've been a shark just riding around in the water eating up everybody. All of a sudden, we get wounded and everybody is all over us. They're trying to get us. They're trying to pound it in, so every week is a challenge. We can't give in to it.”


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