No. 9 — 1955
Record: 4-8 (fifth in the NFL West)
Head Coach: Red Strader
Starting Quarterback: Y.A. Tittle
Best Players: END Billy Wilson, DT Bob Toneff, S Dicky Moegle
Team owner Tony Morabito fired Buck Shaw, the only coach in franchise history, prior to the 1955 season, stating that Shaw had failed to get the team to a championship game. It was hoped that Red Strader, a former team scout, would come in and get the team over the hump and into the playoffs. Instead, the 49ers turned in their worst record since their first year in the NFL.
Injuries can be blamed a lot for this. Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson, both Pro Bowlers in recent years, were sidelined for most of the season with a series of nagging injuries. What players they did have had mixed seasons. Tittle led the NFL with 17 touchdown passes—a reminder of how different the game was in the 1950s—but he also threw 28 interceptions. That’s three of the four members of the Million Dollar Backfield either injured or ineffective, with only Joe Perry getting through the season with his reputation intact. Better seasons for the quartet would happen later, but ’55 was a step back in all respects.
Injuries and uninspired play led to the 49ers slogging through a poor season, and Strader was fired after just one year. Under new head coach Frankie Albert, the team would reach their first NFL playoffs just two years later, further underlining how much the ’55 team underperformed.