The San Francisco 49ers weren’t a very good NFL pick in 2014. Will things get any better in 2015 now that the Niners have canned one of the best coaches they’ve ever had? It doesn’t look too good so far.
Do the New England Patriots qualify as a dynasty? Let’s see… four Super Bowl titles, 12 postseason appearances in 15 years under head coach Bill Belichick… not bad. But the Patriots still have some work to do to catch up to arguably the greatest NFL dynasty of them all, the San Francisco 49ers – specifically, the 49ers under former owner Eddie DeBartolo. From the time he took over the team in 1979 until his suspension (and eventual ousting) in 1998, the Niners won five Super Bowls and made the playoffs 16 times.
Things went south for the 49ers after that. There was a brief rebound in 2001-02, but head coach Steve Mariucci was fired after things got tense between himself and new owner John York. Sound familiar? The Niners are in pretty much the same boat after Jim Harbaugh’s recent departure, and if history tells us anything, it’s to avoid putting San Francisco in our NFL picks for 2015.
Two Mikes and a Mooch
Let’s go back in time once again to 2003. Mariucci was doing a fine job running the West Coast offense that he inherited from Bill Walsh via George Seifert. But after Mariucci was given the boot, the Niners hired Dennis Erickson, whose “one-back” offense wasn’t suited for the players that were left behind. Things got tense between QB Jeff Garcia and WR Terrell Owens, and after plummeting to 2-14 (6-10 ATS) in 2004, York cleared out the front office.
Next up: Mike Nolan, who was given at least some control over personnel and drafted QB Alex Smith first overall in 2005. Smith never quite lived up to the hype, as the Niners churned through one offensive co-ordinator after another. Eventually Nolan was replaced by Mike Singletary, which just made things worse. It was only when Harbaugh was hired in 2011 after an excellent run at Stanford that the Niners started winning – and winning big.
A Man Named Jed
Which just about catches us up to the present day. John York isn’t running things anymore – it’s his son Jed pulling the strings now. And whatever tension there was between Mariucci and York père is nothing compared to what happened this year. Here’s the takeaway quote from Michael Rosenberg at Sports Illustrated: “York has created a culture that encourages selfishness, weakness and back-stabbing.”
After York successfully paved the way for Harbuagh’s departure, the Niners made the very curious choice of promoting defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to the top job, over a number of worthy candidates including defensive co-ordinator Vic Fangio. Tomsula is being painted by local scribes as a “yes-man” hire; he was with the 49ers before Harbaugh, and was interim head coach for the last game of the 2010 campaign, after Singletary was fired.
After the Fire
At least Erickson was a seasoned veteran when he was brought aboard in 2003. Not including that one game in 2010, Tomsula’s only stint as a head coach was with the Rhein Fire in 2006. And when you look at some of the assistants who will be working under Tomsula this year, you won’t find a lot of NFL experience there, either. New offensive co-ordinator Geep Chryst spent two years in that role with the San Diego Chargers in 1999-2000. New QB coach Steve Logan was Tomsula’s offensive co-ordinator with the Fire.
Despite these shenanigans, the Niners are available at 20-1 on Bovada’s NFL odds list for Super Bowl 50 (at their own stadium, the Field of Jeans), right there with solid programs like the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s possible that San Francisco could make a quick rebound with the amount of talent still on the team. It’s also possible that QB Colin Kaepernick (86.4 passer rating) will be the next one out the door – and without a No. 1 pick waiting in the wings to replace him, either. If you want to make money on the Niners in 2015, consider fading them as your first option.