No. 10 — 1975
Record: 5-9 (second in the NFC West)
Head Coach: Dick Nolan
Starting Quarterbacks: Norm Snead, Steve Spurrier, Tom Owen
Best Players: DE Cedrick Hardman, RB Delvin Williams, LB Skip Vanderbrundt
The early 1970s saw the 49ers have their first sustained success in the NFL, reaching the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and coming within a game of the Super Bowl twice. Then, there’s a bit of a gap—between 1973 and 1980, the 49ers never made the playoffs. A couple of the worst seasons in franchise history fall squarely into that gap, including Dick Nolan’s last with the team.
’75 saw the team lose stalwarts like Len Rhode and Forrest Blue on the offensive line and Dave Wilcox, a future Hall of Fame linebacker. This was part of a downward spiral that sent the franchise into a rather deep pit; they entered the season with a quarterback controversy between the injured former first-round quarterback Steve Spurrier, the man who had played solidly in relief of him the year before, Tom Owen and veteran journeyman and game manage Norm Snead. They never sorted it out during the season, leading to sloppy offensive play and a lack of consistency.
The team actually finished second in the NFC West that year, but only because the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints were even worse. But the third consecutive losing season for Dick Nolan and his crew was the final straw, and Nolan was fired. The team would go through four more head coaches before they found someone else who could take the team to the playoffs.