January 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula walks the sideline against the St. Louis Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
2015 was bad, but it can always be worse for San Francisco 49ers fans.
Note: This is a reissue of an article published on Niner Noise just before the 2016 season, in which the 49ers went 2-14. It’s fun to see the contrast and expectation level before one of the worst seasons in franchise history took place.
Some fans, especially younger fans, look at the 2015 San Francisco 49ers season and see the worst team they had ever seen take the field. From poor front-office strategy, to a head coach who was in over his head, to the wrong players starting for the majority of the season to the low quality of the players actually on the field, it seemed that everything that could have gone wrong did for last year’s team. Surely, it couldn’t be worse than that?
Sure it can.
It’s been a while, but 2015 is far from the worst season 49ers fans have ever had to endure. It’s not even in the same ballpark of the worst of the worst; it doesn’t crack the top five in the franchise’s 66-year NFL history. The 49ers have put out some absolutely terrible teams, both historically and in the relatively recent past. If you joined the 49ers faithful in the Jim Harbaugh era, or even in the Mike Singletary era, you may not remember most of these terrible seasons. Long-time fans, though, know it can always get worse.
We’re looking back at the most awful teams the 49ers have ever produced. We’re not just considering win-loss record; we’re considering the quality of the competition, the margins they won and lost by, the quality of the players on the field and the men making the decisions on the sidelines and the general feeling of hope or despair that surrounded the franchise at the time.
That last bit is important; Bill Walsh’s first two years with the 49ers in 1979 and 1980 were bad seasons, with the ’79 season tying the franchise record for worst record. There were clear signs of improvement, however, and the sense that things were recovering from the Joe Thomas era. Other seasons just miss making this cut for similar reasons; 1950 was the 49ers’ first year in the NFL, so it was a quasi-expansion team, while both 2008 and 2010, while bad, felt like the team was on the verge of cracking into something big if they could just harness the talent they had.
The ten seasons on this list don’t have those sorts of caveats. They are the ten hardest seasons to sit through in 49ers history. Hopefully, 2016 won’t join them on the list any time soon.