No. 7 — 1978
Record: 2-14 (fourth in the NFC West)
Head Coaches: Fred O’Connor, Pete McCulley
Starting Quarterbacks: Steve DeBerg, Scott Bull
Best Players: DE Cedrick Hardman, LB Dan Bunz, S Chuck Crist
The worst general manager in franchise history was Joe Thomas, without a doubt. Thomas took over in 1977, and immediately fired a winning coach in Monte Clark and traded five high draft picks for an aging and decrepit O.J. Simpson. None of his coaching hires lasted more than a season, and the 49ers stumbled to a 7-23 record in Thomas’ two seasons with the franchise.
This was the second of those seasons, and the talent drain was obvious. Out went Gene Washington, Cas Banaszek, Tommy Hart, Mel Phillips, Skip Vanderbrundt, Woody Peoples and Bruce Taylor—most of them released or traded by Thomas. He also, just before the start of the season, released starting quarterback Jim Plunkett. It was a reign of terror that led to the 49ers looking unrecognizable as a team, and playing a game that was unrecognizable as football.
Thomas even tried to cancel a game midway through the season, believing that he would be assassinated after San Francisco mayor George Moscone was shot the same day. He got into a physical fight with a beat reporter, had signs criticizing himself confiscated and generally caused problems all year long. It forced owner Eddie DeBartolo, who had been something of a hands-off owner to that point, to take more control of the day-to-day operations of the team, and led to the hiring of someone named Bill Walsh the next season.
Say what you want about the current state of the 49ers; there has never been a more oppressive or negative attitude from the front office as there was during the Joe Thomas era, and it produced one of the worst seasons in franchise history.