49ers Year-by-Year: 1969

What follows is a historical summary of the San Francisco 49ers' 1969 season. Read on to see how the 49ers fared in Dick Nolan's second season as the head coach. Read on to see why 49ers fans in 1969 had good reason to be thankful for the Colts. Read on to find out about the greatness that was Gene Washington.

Date:

Opponent:

Score:

Record:

Opponent's Record:

Sept. 21

@ Atlanta Falcons

L: 12-24

0-1

1-0

Sept. 28

@ Green Bay Packers

L: 7-14

0-2

2-0

Oct. 5

Washington Redskins

T: 17-17

0-2-1

1-1-1

Oct. 12

Los Angeles Rams

L: 27-21

0-3-1

4-0

Oct. 19

Atlanta Falcons

L: 21-7

0-4-1

2-3

Oct. 26

@ Baltimore Colts

W: 24-21

1-4-1

3-3

Nov. 2

Detroit Lions

L: 26-14

1-5-1

4-3

Nov. 9

@ Los Angeles Rams

L: 30-41

1-6-1

8-0

Nov. 16

Baltimore Colts

W: 17-20

2-6-1

5-4

Nov. 23

@ New Orleans Saints

L: 38-43

2-7-1

3-7

Nov. 27

@ Dallas Cowboys

T: 24-24

2-7-2

8-2-1

Dec. 6

Chicago Bears

W: 21-42

3-7-2

1-11

Dec. 14

@ Minnesota Vikings

L: 7-10

3-8-2

12-1

Dec. 21

Philadelphia Eagles

W: 13-14

4-8-2

4-9-1

Head Coach: Dick Nolan

Key Losses: HB/TE John David Crowe, LG/C Bruce Bosley, LB Matt Hazeltine, DE Clark Miller

Key Additions: WR Gene Washington, LB Skip Vanderbundt, K Momcilo Gavric, TE Ted Kwalick, DT Bob Hoskins

1969 was the NFL's 50th season. To commemorate the anniversary, every player wore a special 50th anniversary patch on their uniforms. The New York Giants and New Orleans Saints returned to their original divisions, which they had switched only a year before, both moves dictated by the original merger agreement.

For the 49ers, the 1969 season came with the promise of 1968 as well as the question marks of some roster turmoil. On the surface, 1968 had been a similar year to the painful inconsistency of Jack Christiansen's team, but Dick Nolan's first season had been witness, most importantly, to the relative stabilization of the defense in some part due to the head coach's newly employed flex scheme.

Following 1968, linebacker Matt Hazeltine retired and defensive end Clark Miller left the team to play with the Redskins. Both had been full-time starters on the team throughout the ‘60s. The defense was further hurt in the preseason, when starters Kevin Hardy and Stan Hindman. Hardy would miss the entire season and Hindman would struggle to play with the same effectiveness he previously had.

To help account for the losses on defense, the team drafted Skip Vanderbundt and handed him Hazeltine's old job and turned Miller's old position over to second year player Bill Belk, which had originally been slated for Hardy.

The rebuild continued on offense as well. With John David Crowe retiring and the continued absence of Dave Parks leaving a deep hole in the passing game, the team drafted Gene Washington. Furthermore, Doug Cunningham was given the starting job at halfback in the hopes that the team would finally find a complement to Fred Willard that would propel their running game into the upper echelon.

Starting the year in Atlanta, though, the 49ers found out that the problems they suffered in the preseason were going to continue to haunt them into the season. John Brodie, pained by chronic shoulder problems, struggled right off the bat and interceptions accounted to three of the team's five turnovers in the season opener as they lost 24-12. Things didn't get better over the next few games, as they went 0-3-1 over the next four games. For the first time in a long time, though, the team's struggles were largely attributable to poor offensive play. The defense only gave up more than 300 yards once during that stretch, and collected an average of two turnovers a game. Brodie's struggles to play effectively with the pain in his shoulder were killing the team.

The team's woes continued, though. In the third week of the season, the team lost MLB and longtime starter Ed Beard to a nasty knee injury and struggled with a hobbled kicker in Tommy Davis. Beard was replaced by Frank Nunley, and Davis made it two more games before finally calling it quits.

To give Brodie's shoulder a rest and to try to get something going in a difficult season, Steve Spurrier was thrown into the action in week 6 against the Colts. For one game, at least, the change made a difference. Spurrier threw a touchdown pass and, despite some ugly play, the 49ers came away with their first win of the year. Spurrier would continue to see some limited action, but ultimately his level of play didn't stand out over that of an injured John Brodie. And when Brodie returned, his shoulder was no longer bothering him. His production would improve visibly with his health.

But the injuries kept coming as the season continued to slip completely away. Bill Belk, Kermit Alexander, and Mel Phillips all struggled with minor injuries, and in week seven the 49ers lost starting safety Jeff Fuller for the season with a knee injury.

After a couple more losses, the 49ers were lucky enough to play the Colts again. With Brodie playing well again, they were able to overcome their personnel issues and steal their second win of the season. But Brodie could only do so much, and the team was a mess of injuries and inexperience at this juncture. At no point would those problems be more exposed than in week 10 against the Saints, when New Orleans roared back from a 21-0 deficit to torch the 49ers for over 400 yards, 43 points and the game.

At 2-7-1, the season was over the 49ers, but they showed some heart over the last 4 games, doubling their win total during that time. The season had been a disaster, but if the team had been even a little healthier from top to bottom it could easily have been a different story.

Player Profile: Gene Washington

Drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 1969 draft, Gene Washington made an immediate impact on offense, starting every game while catching 51 passes for 711 yards and 3 touchdowns. The performance was enough to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He would make repeat trips each of the next 3 seasons.

In his second season, Washington enjoyed his best season as a pro, catching 53 passes for 1100 yards and 12 touchdowns - all career highs. His 20.8 yards per reception average was the second highest of his career (an illustrious one during which he averaged over 18 yards per reception). He would enjoy similar success each of the next two season, even catching 12 touchdown again in 1972, but by 1973, at the age of 26, his best seasons were behind him.

Washington played with the 49ers for 9 years, at the end of which he had accrued 385 receptions for 6865 yards and 59 touchdowns. He finished his time with the 49ers second only to Billy Wilson in franchise history for total receptions, and the team leader in every other significant statistical category. To this day, he remains seventh in team history in receptions, fourth in yards, and third in receiving touchdowns. He remains the team's all time yards per reception leader for all players with more than 40 receptions.

After leaving the 49ers, he played one season with the Lions and then retired. He later joined the NFL as the Director of Player Operations, a title which he holds to this day.

Primary References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_NFL_season
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/sfo/1969.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Washington_(49ers)
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/W/WashGe00.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/sfo/career-receiving.htm
San Francisco 49ers 1970 Media Guide

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