San Francisco 49ers: Ranking 5 worst head coaches over last 20 years

Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Mike Nolan, 49ers
Head Coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images) /

The 49ers only recently found consistency at head coach with Kyle Shanahan, and there have been more duds at the position since 2000 than studs.

It’s only a few years ago the San Francisco 49ers were viewed as the franchise where head coaches’ NFL careers went to die.

At least during those regular turnover years between 2014 and 2016.

Those dark years under the leadership of CEO Jed York weren’t particularly fun, as the franchise “mutually” parted ways with one of its more successful head coaches in team history, Jim Harbaugh, only to go with one-and-done head coaches, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, in back-to-back years.

Yet those two names are merely a part of what’s been a pretty bad string of poor head coach hirings and firings since the dawn of the century, which was marked by the Niners bidding farewell to another successful head coach, Steve Mariucci.

Between Mooch and current head coach Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco’s efforts on head coaches essentially generated just one success story: Harbaugh. And yet that ended up creating more controversy than anything else, especially the way that relationship ended.

Our friends over at Niners Nation created a poll trying to evaluate the worst head coaches in 49ers history dating back to 2000.

So let’s run with that a bit and rank out the five worst since the dawn of the century while being thankful the Niners have landed Shanahan in the long run.

No. 5: 49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan

Years Coaching: 2005-2008

Win-Loss Record: 18-37

At the time, the 2005 hiring of former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan seemed like a great idea. The Niners defense was terrible, and Baltimore had previously set a new standard for top-tier defenses.

Nolan appeared to instill a new culture of winning. There was that “Win the West” banner he put up in the locker room in Candlestick Park his first season, which was to set the tone. And Nolan’s demeanor, including those suits on the sideline to honor his father, former 49ers head coach Dick Nolan, looked pretty sharp.

Yet the younger Nolan made arguably his first big mistake by selecting quarterback Alex Smith, not Cal’s Aaron Rodgers, with the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Enough has been said about the “what ifs?” regarding Smith and what could have been if San Francisco grabbed the future Hall of Famer, Rodgers, instead. But Smith’s time with Nolan was indicative of the struggles the team was having, and it’s not hard to conclude the quarterback’s maturation was completely stonewalled by Nolan during his three-plus years as head coach.

San Francisco finally moved on in the middle of 2008 after Nolan’s time had long since ran its course.