By: Tyler Chuck
“You might not know this, you might not believe it… but once upon a time the San Francisco 49ers were a dynasty.”
To be honest, most fans remember the dynastic qualities of the Niners, but it feels like a mere twilight at this point. The glory days feel like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The Niners last Super Bowl was in 1994, which means that kids who are 3rd years in College have never seen a Niners Super Bowl.
Historically, the Niners have been a model of consistency and excellence in the NFL for the past three decades. From Montana to Clark and Young to Rice, the Niners have produced the most iconic moments in sports, winning 5 Super Bowls.
But the recent frustration has been sharp and quick. The Niners made it to 3 NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl this decade. They had an elite coach and the best defense in the NFL. So what the heck happened?
Here’s what we know. It got real bad, real fast. Basically, they had the worst offseason in this history of football headed by our buddy Jed York. It’s the polar opposite of Hercules’ “Zero to Hero.” Or maybe, according to Damon Bruce, it’s exactly like the sinking Titanic. It was really just one plus tumultuous year. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” […] but it came down really quickly.
In a beautiful piece about another Bay Area team written a couple of years back, Simmons chronicles the 60 steps to annoy a fan base. That team just won an NBA Championship in spectacular fashion. I think the magic article did the trick. So here it is, how to annoy a fan base in 49 easy steps:
- June 5, 2014—Kaepernick Signs 6-year, $126 Million Contract: Whenever something gets bad, you’ve always got to follow the money, so we’ll start here. I don’t think that many Niner fans were ecstatic when the team signed a player the quality of Kap to the largest contract in the history of the NFL.
- August 30, 2014—Aldon Smith Suspended 9 Games: Aldon Smith seems like a great guy. He’s the kind of guy that teammates love to be around and he thrives when he is in a strong team environment. This is why Aldon Smith did so well in his first couple of years under Harbaugh and Vic Fangio. That said, substance abuse is a serious issue for Aldon. It’s a shame that the NFL’s policy is for Aldon to have to leave his team and support system while suspended. As a result, more trouble came.
- August 31, 2014—Ray McDonald Arrested for Domestic Abuse: I’m a fan of zero tolerance when it comes to domestic abuse. McDonald should have been cut this day. He wasn’t. Doesn’t send a good message.
- October 14, 2014—Kaepernick Fined $11K for Inappropriate Language: Whether they like it or not and whether it’s fair or not, Quarterbacks are role models. Is Kap the kind of guy that you want your 5-year-old kid to grow up to be?
- November 5, 2014—Marcus Lattimore Retires: This one feels symbolically sad than anything else. You gotta feel for a guy like Marcus. Lattimore represented a series of draft picks that Trent Baalke made that had “potential.” Many people thought Lattimore had 1st round talent, injuries kept him from ever making an impact.
- December 17, 2014—Niners Release Ray McDonald: This was actually a good decision, but it was made about four months too late. “Winning with class” sounds great only when you actually hold true to what you say. The tardiness made the Niners sound hypocritical. Nobody likes a hypocrite.
- December 19, 2014—York Promises Super Bowl: Yes, it’s great to be confident, but nobody likes the guy that can’t back it up. Let the play on the field do the talking.
- December 29, 2014—Jim Harbaugh “Let Go“: Montana said it best, “Now they’re struggling, players are leaving. Is that Harbaugh’s fault? I don’t think so, he’s not there anymore. Where those troubles begin and why those guys left? Even, I think, people close to the team really don’t know.” You can’t let an elite coach go. Period. His performance at Michigan speaks to his greatness.
- December 29, 2014—York Asks Fans to “Hold Him Accountable”: Most of this frustration comes from the fact that you can’t hold an owner with absolute power accountable. York didn’t set up any structures for people to hold him accountable, so this feels like a front.
- December 30, 2014—York Repeats “Winning With Class Matters”: Last time I checked, there was nothing classy about domestic abuse.
- January 10, 2015—Adam Gase Fiasco: We may have seen some red flags, but here is where those red flags turned into signal flares. Gase wanted the Niner job and interviewed for it at length. The former Denver offensive mastermind realized that the Niners were crazy when they didn’t give Gase say over a potential staff.
- January 14, 2015—Tomsula Named Head Coach: No coordinator experience? Really? It’s suspect when you hire a guy that no other team in the league wanted. This hire screams puppet for the law firm of Baalke and Baalke.
- January 15, 2015—Tomsula Press Conference: This is probably my favorite moment in all of this. Lets just say that I turned in a job application to be Tomsula’s personal “translator” after this happened.
- January 28, 2015—Geep Chryst Named Offensive Coordinator: If we were choosing a guy based on a cool name or by coolest brother, sure. But if we’re choosing a guy based on what he did, I don’t get it. Chryst was Kap’s QB coach in 2014 when Kap regressed. It’s downright offensive to promote this dude to a coordinator.
- February 2, 2015—Dan Quinn Named Falcons Coach: Another guy linked to the Niners signs elsewhere and starts 5-0. Hmmmm, so there WAS a good choice for head coach out there.
- March 5, 2015—Bruce Miller Arrested Spousal Battery: I really have to wonder, is there something in the water at the Niners facility that makes their players beat up women. It’s just wrong. I can’t get over it. This is one of the few points where I started to question fandom.
- March 5, 2015—Niners Sign Jerome Simpson: He made one really sweet flip into the end zone, but had a history of substance abuse. I thought that this team wanted to win with class…
- March 9, 2015—Iupati Signs with Cardinals: Iupati is a Somoan man with a huge emphasis on family. I once talked to his family at a game. They rolled in about twenty deep. That’s dedication. When a man that cares so much about family leaves, you’ve really got to question what happened to the Niner family.
- March 9, 2015—Dan Skuta Signs with Jaguars: Rubbing salt into the wound.
- March 10, 2015—Patrick Willis Retires: One of the greatest Niners of all time. Sad to see him done at age 30. Hard to think he wouldn’t have stayed for the right team.
- March 11, 2015—Gore Signs with Colts: it’s too bad that we couldn’t get a Super Bowl for Frank Gore.
- March 12, 2015—Seat Licenses Selling for Thousands Less: Fans were frustrated with seat licenses in the beginning, but when those licenses fell like Enron stock, it reached a new level of bad.
- March 13, 2015—Chris Culliver Signs withi Redskins: He was working out really well for the Redskins until he tore his ACL.
- March 16, 2015—Perrish Cox Signs with Titans: Is this the end of the exodus?
- March 17, 2015—Borland Retires: I can’t be too mad about this one because Borland has put his money where his mouth is and decided to call it quits. The frustrating part is that the one producer from Baalke’s draft class decided to call it quits. It all factors into the draft decision.
- March 18, 2015—Reggie Bush Signed: I don’t like Reggie Bush. Probably because he’s from U$C.
- April 13, 2015—Crabtree Signs with Raiders: When a cornerstone of your team signs with your cross-bay rival, you know something is wrong.
- April 22, 2015—Niners Get Toughest Schedule in NFL: Ouch.
- April 30, 2015—2015 NFL Draft: The NFL Draft is supposed to represent hope. AJ Jenkins and LaMichael James scream otherwise. While other teams went into this day confident that they would evaluate and acquire top talent, Niner fans rightfully had questions.
- April 30, 2015—Arik Armstead Drafted: Another guy with big potential that many people thought was a project. Doesn’t help him that other Oregon DE’s haven’t made it in the NFL.
- May 2, 2015—Niners Sign Jarryd Hayne: The Niners seem to think that good athletes will be able to learn how to play football. See: Lawrence Okoye.
- May 18, 2015—Justin Smith Retires: We’ll miss you Cowboy.
- May 25, 2015—Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald Arrested: McDonald was with the Bears, but why is this guy still in the league? Brooks was charged with sexual battery. If you’re gong to lose, at least lose with good guys on your team.
- June 5, 2015—Anthony Davis Retires: Part of me has to think that Anthony Davis will play in the NFL again. He was just smart to get off the sinking ship. Hard to blame him.
- August 7, 2015—Niners Cut Aldon Smith for DUI, Vandalism: Another sad saga in the Aldon Smith story. Seemed like Smith got a number of chances though too.
- August 18, 2015—Jerome Simpson Suspended 6 Games: He didn’t get suspended for substance abuse while signed with the Niners, but still, Baalke had to know this was coming. Another bad look for the franchise.
- August 19, 2015—Tank Carradine and Quinton Patton Fight at Practice: Childish. And not of the Gambino variety.
- September 13, 2015—Aldon Smith Signs with Raiders: Ouch, another guy to the Silver and Black. Hm, maybe some Niner fans might want to see their favorite stars play for that other team…
- September 14, 2015—Niners vs. Vikings on Monday Night Football: A 20-3 win leads to false hope.
- September 20, 2015—Niners Lose at Pittsburgh 43-18: Wait, I thought that they were going to be good…
- September 20, 2015—Niners Lose at Cardinals 47-7: I’m still feeling the pain from the two Kap Pick 6’s to open the game. This really should be called a TAINT though (Touchdown After Interception).
- October 22, 2015—Niners Lose to Seahawks 20-3 at Levis: Thursday night. Nobody was there. This felt like a sad nail in the coffin. A once heated rivalry had become one-sided.
- October 31, 2015—Niners Cut Jarryd Haye for Kendall Gaskins: Really? The one thing that Niner fans had hope for? See ya, Hayne Plane. Australia mourns.
- November 1, 2015—Reggie Bush Injured in St. Louis: Reggie decided to file a lawsuit against the city of St. Louis for having unsafe playing conditions.
- November 2, 2015—Vernon Davis Traded to Broncos: Most Niner fans seemed happy for Vernon to get a chance to go somewhere else.
- November 3, 2015—Kaepernick Benched: Kap was looking really bad.
- November 9, 2015—Blaine Gabbert Named Starter for Seattle and Beyond: I’d rather have Luke McCown. Gabbert’s numbers seem to back me up.
- November 21, 2015—Kaepernick Put On Season Ending IR: Fitting to begin and end with Kap. Sad that he didn’t take the benching as well as Alex Smith. I can’t decide of Kap will come out as the perpetrator or the victim in all this. Only time will tell.
Bonus: When Super Bowl L comes to Levi’s Stadium, this February, it will serve as a reminder that the Niners have not come through on Jed York’s responsibility to win Super Bowls. We’ll probably see the Patriots take another Lombardi trophy and simultaneously tie the Niners with number of Super Bowl wins. Seems like a fitting finish to annoying a fan base.
Imagine you’re a lifelong Niner fan that’s been through everything from John Brodie to J.T. O’Sullivan. You’ve seen it all: the high of the 1990 Super Bowl annihilation of the Broncos and the low of 2004’s 2-14. But this year, you’ve experienced the worst year yet. Failed leadership took the team from contending for a 6th title to contention for the number one pick. Oh, the despair.
Imagine your worst-case scenarios and this is probably even worse. We’re not only talking about bad, we’re also talking about sad. You legitimately feel bad for the Niners. Imagine what you’d say to Jed York if you got to walk into his office. After all, he did ask us to hold him accountable…
But now, imagine that you’re a Warriors fan, sitting in Oracle Arena, basking in the glow of a golden championship banner. Then think back to five short years ago to when Joe Lacob was booed off the court. They’ve come a long way. Imagine the rollercoaster of emotion that Dubs fans have been though. Talk about bad for a long time…
But in the end, all these tough times make the good ones even sweeter. As bad as it feels right now, maybe, just maybe, it’ll all work out. It’s called the Faithful 49 for a reason. It worked for the Dubs; it’ll work for the Red and Gold. So, I ask you… what’s next?