Chip Kelly’s All-Time Ranking Among San Francisco 49ers Head Coaches
Dennis Erickson (2003-2004)
Dennis Erickson did more damage as the head coach of the 49ers than any other man in history. He took a 10-6 team, coming off of two successive playoff appearances, and returning players like Julian Peterson, Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, Garrison Hearst, Jeremy Newberry and Ron Stone, and turned it into a 7-9 team. He then took that 7-9 team and turned it into a 2-14 team; the worst squad in 49ers history according to SRS. He was then fired.
You can pick nits about whether the 2004 team was really worse than the 2005 season that followed it, and to what extent Erickson was sabotaged by not having time to assemble a staff in his first season and then salary cap issues entering his second year, but the level of drop-off, year to year, is just absolutely remarkable. The opposite equivalent would be Kelly bouncing the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth this year, and then a 13-3, Super Bowl-winning team the year after. That would be regarded as one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history, and that’s what Erickson managed to do in two years in San Francisco. Nothing Kelly could do in one season—not even an 0-16 season where the 49ers were never competitive—could match what Erickson managed to do in two years.
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I’m not particularly optimistic about the 49ers’ chances this season, but there’s plenty of time left for things to change…