The 1980’s and 1990’s were glory decades for the San Francisco 49ers after decades of futility. The 80’s saw the rise of Bill Walsh, the West Coast offense and Joe Montana, ‘The Catch’, a Super Bowl win in ’81, a Super Bowl win ’84, the drafting of Jerry Rice, back-to-back Super Bowl wins in ’88-’89, eight playoff appearances and seven NFC West division titles. After the ’88 season Bill Walsh retired and gave way to George Seifert and the 49ers dominance continued into the 1990’s. Another eight playoff appearances, six NFC West division titles and Super Bowl win number 5 in ’94 for the 49ers lead by Steve Young continued another glory decade. We have to admit 49er Faithful we did get a little spoiled with all the success of the ‘80s and ‘90s but who would have guessed that in 2000 and the years that followed the 49ers would fall hard and fast. Sure we had some success early in the last decade but the peak we rode with the Niners started to decline not long after but who would have guessed that we would become this bad after two decades of success.
With John York at the helm he and the York family took over ownership of the 49ers. In Jerry Rice’s last season as a Niner he had 75 catches for 805 yards with seven touchdowns. In Rice’s last San Francisco home game Terrell Owens set an NFL record for receptions by a receiver in one game with 20 (which was recently broken by Brandon Marshall). The 49ers finished 6-10 and fourth in the NFC West.
For all the great things Bill Walsh did as a coach and general manager for the 49ers picking Terry Donahue as his successor I would say was his lone mistake. The 49ers best record of the decade, 12-4, and they still finished second in the NFC West. The Rams that year were 14-2.
The 2002 season saw the 49ers go 10-6 winning their lone NFC West division title of the decade. The Niners beat the Giants 39-38 in a last second drive by Jeff Garcia with the Niners overcoming a 38-14 deficit by scoring 25 unanswered points in the second half. We lost in the next round to the Buccaneers 31-6.
In the off-season John York decided to yield some power and fired head coach Steve Mariucci even though he was coming off a playoff win and an NFC West title. For some reason the Niners hired Dennis Erickson who catapulted the 49ers downward to start a seven year stretch with the 49ers finishing with losing records. The 49ers finished 7-9 and third in the NFC West. In the off-season GM Terry Donahue released quarterback Jeff Garcia and traded T.O.
With a depleted roster the 49ers finished an NFL worst 2-14, last in the NFC West. With the release of Jeff Garcia Tim Rattay took over and the quarterback revolving door started.
Dennis Erickson was fired and the Yorks hired Mike Nolan and also gave him general manager powers even though he had no prior player personnel experience. The 49ers ‘improved’ to 4-12 finish last in the NFC West. Alex Smith is selected with the first pick.
Team finished with a 7-9 record and third in the NFC West. Alex Smith starts all 16 games and is only somewhat effective at quarterback throwing 16 touchdowns and interceptions.
After a season of improving their wins by three games the 49ers were ready to improve to over .500 for the first time under Mike Nolan. Nope, the Niners regressed and finished with a 5-11 record, third in the NFC West. Alex Smith was hurt midway through the season and Trent Dilfer took over. The 49ers hired Jeff Hostler as their offensive coordinator with horrible results. Hostler had no prior coordinator experience but was the 49ers QB coach and hired to keep the offensive terminology the same for Alex Smith. Nolan would call into question Smith’s toughness and injured shoulder. That was the beginning of the end for their relationship.
The York family finally makes a smart move and promotes 49ers VP of Player Personnel Scot McCloughan to general manager. The York family would make it two in row that season by finally firing Mike Nolan midway through the season when they should have done it in the off-season. The Mike Singletary era starts with him going 5-4 as coach with the Niners finishing 7-9 and second in the NFC West.
With all the promises of NFC West contention and a playoff appearance it became clear this year that the 49ers are working their way back up the hill to try to regain the dominance of the ‘80s and ‘90s but they still have missing pieces and a long way to go. If the Niners can win their final game of the season against the Rams they will finish with an 8-8 record ending a seven year stretch of finishing with a losing record.
T.O. sets a single game record with 20 receptions.
Hiring of Scot McCloughan as general manager who has been better than what we previously had in the decade.
Firing of Terry Donahue
Drafting cornerstone players the 49ers can build a foundation on and are future NFL icons: Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley and Michael Crabtree.
Hiring of Mike Singletary.
Firing of Mike Nolan
One NFC West title and two playoff appearances with one win.
The taking over of the 49ers by the York family.
The hiring of Terry Donahue who as general manager drafted Ahmed Plummer and Kevin Barlow and signed them with a huge bonus. Released Jeff Garcia and hired Mike Nolan.
The hiring of Mike Nolan. He had all the promise but showed no positive results. He was fired one year too late. I do give him credit though for the 49ers current success on defense because he hired Greg Manusky to be the defensive coordinator and Mike Singletary as his assistant coach. A lot of the players on defense were drafted and developed by Nolan.
The revolving door of quarterbacks after glory years of watching Montana and Young: Jim Drunkenmiller, Ken Dorsey, Tim Rattay, Cody Pickett, Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, J.T. O’Sullivan.
The revolving door of offensive coordinators: Greg Knapp, Ted Tollner, Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner, Jim Hostler, Mike Martz and Jimmy Raye. Even though Raye should have had a better season in 2009 with the offense in terms of scoring touchdowns and converting third downs he should be retained for next year. Alex Smith and this offense need some continuality.
The treat by the York family to move the 49ers out of San Francisco.
Reasons to be hopefully in the next decade
We may see the 49ers playing outside of San Francisco in the later part of the next decade but there are reasons to be excited:
Michael Crabtree: What he has done in half a season this year is amazing. Can you imagine what a full off-season and training camp with the 49ers will do for MCT and the offense?
Alex Smith: Okay he was not consistent enough and like the rest of the team could not pull off a win on the road but he came back strong after being dormant for a year and a half. Put a solid offensive line in front of this guy and you will have better results. You also won’t have to be in shotgun formation all the time in order to have a good offense because the O-line cannot protect the quarterback.
49ers Defense: Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson and Aubrayo Franklin oh my! With Greg Manusky calling the plays and Willis as your general on the field the sky is the limit for this defense in the new decade.
Nate Davis: If Smith does not work out at QB then we have Davis to rely on, hopefully. We might see him as a starter for the 49ers at some point in the decade regardless of how Smith does.
Mike Singletary: The 49ers are improving but we saw this in the last decade. But with Singletary at the helm it will be sooner in the next decade than later for the 49ers to become playoff contenders each year.
The 49ers might have a new staduim, just not in San Francisco.
Tags: 2000's 49ers 2000's: 49ers Debacle Decade 49ers 49ers 2009 Season 49ers 2009 Training Camp 49ers Injuries 49ers New Stadium 49ers Offensive Coordinator 49ers Preseason 49ers QB 49ers Quarterback 49ers Training Camp 2009 Free Agency Adam Snyde