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2005 San Francisco 49ers rate out as worst team of past 30 years

Yes, that 49ers squad rated worse than the winless Detroit Lions.

The San Francisco 49ers did a lot of great things from 2011 to 2013, but other than those three years, the past 14 years have been pretty rough. The organization has had a couple situations where they have bottomed out to a certain extent. The past two years were ugly, but they don’t compare quite as much to the 2004 and 2005 49ers teams.

Football Outsiders put together a look at the 30 best teams of the past 30 years using their DVOA statistic. It included five 49ers squads, all between 1989 and 1995. In running down the list, they also included a ranking of the five worst teams of the past 30 years. The 2005 San Francisco 49ers topped that list!

Here’s what they had to say about that 49ers squad.

1. 2005 San Francisco 49ers (minus-55.5 percent): The 49ers combined the third-worst offense in DVOA history with the 36th-worst defense. They somehow managed to pull off four victories, all by less than a touchdown. But their 12 losses were abysmal, featuring such scores as 42-3, 28-3, 52-17 and 41-3.

The bottom five ranked as follows:

1. 2005 San Francisco 49ers (-55.5 percent)
2. 2009 Detroit Lions (-51.6 percent)
3. 2008 Detroit Lions (-48.4 percent)
4. 1991 Indianapolis Colts (-47.7 percent)
5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (-47.1 percent)

Yep, the 2005 49ers squad rated out worse than the win-less 2008 Detroit Lions. That squad got a bump from slightly above average special teams play.

That 2005 49ers squad was pretty brutal. Tim Rattay opened the season as the starting quarterback. Alex Smith replaced him as starter in Week 5, but after two starts of his own, a knee injury sidelined him. Ken Dorsey and Cody Pickett split the next five starts, and then Smith returned to the starting lineup for the final five games. Smith led the team with 875 passing yards, but had only one touchdown to go with 11 interceptions. Rattay led the team with a 70.8 QB rating and 57.7 percent completion percentage.

On offense, Kevan Barlow got the most carries, but it was clear that rookie Frank Gore was going to be the running back of at least the near future. Gore averaged 4.8 yards on 127 carries, while Barlow averaged 3.3 yards on 176 carries. And given that Barlow was not a popular player on the team, his departure was not surprising.

In the passing game, Brandon Lloyd led the team with 48 receptions for 733 yards. Arnaz Battle finished second with 32 reception for 363 yards. Johnnie Morton was the No. 3 receiver, with 21 receptions for 288 yards. Quite the wide receiver trio.

On defense, linebacker Derek Smith led the team with 90 tackles, and he was followed by cornerback Shawntae Spencer (74). Linebacker Julian Peterson and safety Mike Adams were tied for third with 57 tackles. Adams and Spencer each had four interceptions on the season.

Bryant Young led the team with eight sacks, and would go on to play two more seasons before calling it a career. The 2005 season was Young’s 12th with the 49ers. I always forget how long he lasted with the team. A 14-year career is certainly not unprecedented, but I always thought of him more with the earlier teams, and not when things really went south, even though the final third of his career was during that ugly time.

In 2008, I had a chance to make my first visit to the 49ers facility. During that trip, myself and a few other bloggers had a chance to chat with then GM Scot McCloughan. The 49ers were still in the midst of a rut, but the talent level was at least increasing. McCloughan talked about how in 2005, they were trying to find people off the street just to fill out the 53-man roster. By 2008, they were at least able to have more significant competition for the 53-man roster.