No. 4 — 2007
Record: 5-11 (third in the NFC West)
Head Coach: Mike Nolan
Starting Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke
Best Players: RB Frank Gore, DE Marques Douglas, LB Patrick Willis
Remember that 2006 season from earlier on the list? Where a series of close victories, interspersed with blowout losses, had 49ers fans hopeful something good was coming? Yeah, that all fell to earth the next season.
The loss of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, gone off to San Diego for a head coaching opportunity, stunted Alex Smith’s development. Also not helping was a separated shoulder he suffered early on—an injury that hampered him for the rest of the season, and one that head coach Mike Nolan publicly doubted was as bad as Smith led on. When your head coach and your quarterback are in-fighting, you have problems.
New offensive coordinator Jim Hostler was producing a historically bad unit. The 49ers finished 31st in overall DVOA that season at -33.4, but were dead last in offensive DVOA. They put up a lousy 13.7 points per game, last in the NFL and tied for the fewest points the 49ers have scored in a 16-game season. They failed to even reach 200 offensive yards in seven games, tying the franchise’s futility record there, as well.
This was one of two seasons where the 49ers lost five games by 20 points or more. The 49ers didn’t just lose a lot in 2007, they regularly got creamed.
It would be Mike Nolan’s last full season with the team. He survived the end of the ’07 team, only to be fired midway through the 2008 season as things did not improve.