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49ers Year-by-Year: 1963





Opponent's Record:

Sept. 15

Minnesota Vikings

L: 24-20



Sept. 22

Baltimore Colts

L: 20-14



Sept. 29

@ Minnesota Vikings

L: 14-45



Oct. 6

@ Detroit Lions

L: 3-26



Oct. 13

@ Baltimore Colts

L: 3-20



Oct. 20

Chicago Bears

W: 14-20



Oct. 27

@ Los Angeles Rams

L: 21-28



Nov. 3

Detroit Lions

L: 45-7



Nov. 10

Dallas Cowboys

W: 24-31



Nov. 17

@ New York Giants

L: 14-48



Nov. 24

@ Green Bay Packers

L: 10-28



Dec. 1

Los Angeles Rams

L: 21-17



Dec. 8

@ Chicago Bears

L: 7-27



Dec. 14

Green Bay Packers

L: 21-17



Head Coach: Red Hickey (0-3) / Jack Christiansen (2-9)

Key Losses: G Ted Connolly

Key Additions: QB Lamar McHan, DB Kermit Alexander, DT Walt Rock

Discussion Starter:

As of this week, I'm tentatively getting rid of the discussion starter. The main reason is that it doesn't really start a lot of debate. Another part of it is just that it is very difficult not to repeat myself and remain interesting at the same time: I mean, really, I was talking about kickers last time! Before that, my question on commissioners was a huge hit!

The reality is simply that until we get to right around 1979, there won't be much discussion no matter what I do. And with any luck, this will also open a little more time for me to go over a little more comprehensive research material going forward.

If you want to discuss anything, though, feel free to talk about how much you're going to miss seeing where I go next trying to stretch the 196X season into something universal.

In 1963, the NFL was benefitting from the efforts of commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had previously expanded the size of the league, as well as increased its national availability with network contracts. Even with the competition of the AFL, the NFL was growing stronger as a league, which was a different story from the one nearly two decades before when the AAFC came to be. At that time, having two leagues split the talent, money and interest to a point where both leagues struggled just to make a profit. This time, national interest was wide enough and revenue was strong enough that the two leagues were able to exist in relative equilibrium with each other.

For the 49ers, though, things were not so well. The team had been struggling to remain competitive for several years, and was coming off of its first losing season since 1956. They had lost a significant amount of talent, including an entire Hall of Fame backfield and a pro bowl caliber wide receiver. Aside from stalwarts Bob St. Clair and Leo Nomellini and a few other minor stars in players like Abe Woodson and J. D. Smith, the team was largely very young and very unproven - including a youthful John Brodie, the man who had brought about the end of the Y. A. Tittle era of 49ers' football.

Unfortunately for the 49ers and their fans, things were going to get worse before they got better. The 49ers opened the season at home against the Vikings, and despite being pretty thoroughly outplayed only lost by four. The next two games only got worse as they lost by six to the Colts - another game close only by score - and then again to the Vikings, this time by 31. That third game was a fateful one. In that loss to the Vikings, the 49ers lost John Brodie to injury for the rest of the season. It also marked the end of the Red Hickey era, as he resigned his position mid-season after failing to win a single game on the still early year. He was replaced by assistant coach Jack Christiansen, a former NFL star with the Detroit Lions and future hall of fame member for his career as a player. He inherited a team that was falling apart, and a continued rash of injuries throughout the season would ensure that nothing in 1963 would come easily.

In fact, immediately after the coaching change, very little else did change, at least as far as the results. After an emergency trade with Green Bay to get veteran QB Lamar McHan, the 49ers lost their next two games even more embarrassingly than the first three. Outscored 46-6, the 49ers were unable to muster even 200 yards of combined offense between the two weeks.

At 0-5 and with undefeated Chicago coming to San Francisco, there was very little for 49er fans to take solace in. One of the only things they could take solace in all season actually came that week against the Bears. Behind their strongest rushing effort of the season and one of their best defensive efforts, the 49ers got ahead early and never let go. The win gave them the distinction of being the only team in the league to hand Chicago a loss that season.

Still, pride is hard to come by when you're 1-5, and things got back to normal quickly. The running game shrank, the offense disappeared, the defense withered, and the 49ers lost their next two, even taking their biggest loss of the season against a Lions team that wasn't even at .500 for the year.

And then the 2-7 Cowboys came to San Francisco, and the offense, if not the still miserable defense, came out to play for pretty much the only game all season. Falling behind early, but mounting a comeback around the arm of interim QB Lamar McHan, the 49ers scored more than 20 points for the only time all season in their 31-24 victory over Dallas. McHan threw 3 of his 8 total touchdowns in that game alone.

That was as good as it would get for the 49ers, though. Over their last 5 games, the team was outscored 145-55 and didn't hold a single lead the entire time.

This was rock bottom.

Player Profile: Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy (James Earl) Johnson was a cornerback with the 49ers from 1961 to 1976. Drafted out of UCLA, he spent his first few seasons alternating between WR and DB before assuming a full-time defensive role following the 1963 season.

Johnson was an extremely gifted individual, and came from an athletic family. His brother was a world champion decathlon athlete, and he himself was blessed with exceptional speed and agility. As well as playing football, he had been a track star in college, excelling at the hurdles and the broad jump.

A skilled athlete and mobile playmaker, Johnson became an accomplished cornerback not only for his playmaking, but also for his outstanding coverage skills. He became recognized as a top cover man and an interception threat, and opposing teams would often avoid playing to his side of the field.

When he retired after 213 games, he had played more games as a 49er than any other player in team history. His 47 career interceptions were also a team record at the time, and he remains second on the team's all time list behind only Ronnie Lot.

During his career, Johnson was selected to 5 Pro Bowls (1969-1972, 1974). In 1971, he won the George Halas award for courageous play, and he won the team's Len Eshmont award in both 1971 and 1975. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

Another great player, Jimmy Johnson was a true 49er.

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