No. 1 — 2005
Record: 4-12 (fourth in the NFC West)
Head Coaches: Mike Nolan
Starting Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett
Best Players: WR Brandon Lloyd, DE Marques Douglas, LB Derek Smith
The 2005 edition of the 49ers won more games than the 2004 edition. That’s about the only remotely positive thing you can say about Mike Nolan’s first team, and I assure you, those wins were by accident.
First-overall pick Alex Smith was not ready in 2005. While he’s grown and developed into a Pro Bowl quarterback since then, remember that Smith was bad-bordering-on-terrible for most of his career before Jim Harbaugh arrived. None of the other three quarterbacks who started games for the 49ers that season exactly lit up the NFL, either.
The 49ers failed to get 200 yards in seven of their games in 2005, tying a franchise record. Six times, they were held under 10 points; they never did the same to their opponents, who topped 30 points in six games. They lost games 42-3, 41-3, 28-3 and 52-17. They were rarely competitive and often downright painful to watch.
Football Outsiders gave the 49ers a DVOA of -55.5%. That’s not just the worst in the NFL in 2005, that’s the worst they’ve ever recorded, going back to the 1989 season. Dead last in offense and second-worst in defense, the 49ers set new records for futility in a play-by-play basis—worse than the 0-16 Detroit Lions, worse than any of Cleveland’s terrible teams, worse than the 2004 edition of the 49ers.
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Individual games stand out as painful memories. The worst game I have ever watched was the November 13th game against the Chicago Bears. Cody Pickett was 1 for 13 that day for 28 yards. Kyle Orton outplayed him by throwing for 67 yards—and his team won. October 2nd saw the 49ers get destroyed in the NFL’s first game in Mexico, with the high altitude doing no favors to the 49ers’ anemic passing offense. Game after game was utterly painful to watch.
Jim Tomsula’s team was one of the worst the 49ers have ever put out, but they’d trounce the 2005 unit. Let’s hope the franchise never approaches this low ever again.
The 2000s were a dark time for the franchise.