The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of a rebuilding project that could take some time to fully get on track, but they are light years ahead of where they were 12 years ago. The 2005 San Francisco 49ers might not have been the worst team of all time, but they are high on the list.
Recently, amidst the New York Jets’ attempts to successfully tank for the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, ESPN asked Football Outsiders to rank out the worst teams of the past 30 years according to DVOA. DVOA looks at efficiency on a per play basis, as opposed to wins and losses. The 0-16 Detroit Lions were a very bad football team, but they did not rank out as the worst over the past 30 years. Heck, they weren’t even ranked the worst Detroit team of the past decade! The 2008 winless Lions ranked third, and the 2009 Lions actually ranked second worst.
But the worst team of the past 30 years according to DVOA? The 2005 San Francisco 49ers! They somehow managed four wins, but they were pretty abysmal in losing some serious blowouts. Here’s what Aaron Schatz had to say about them:
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 scores such as 42-3, 28-3, 52-17 and 41-3.
I’m not surprised that offense ranked so poorly. Four different quarterbacks started games that season including abysmal rookie Alex Smith (7), Tim Rattay (4), Ken Dorsey (3), and Cody Pickett (2). Frank Gore showed signs of things to come, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but Kevan Barlow was still the starter, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Brandon Lloyd led the team with 48 receptions, followed by Arnaz Battle with 32, Kevan Barlow with 31 receptions, and Johnnie Morton with 21 receptions. That’s a pretty awful crew.
This offseason saw the Jets unload a host of veterans, and they are viewed by most as the favorite to claim the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 49ers have plenty of questions to answer this season, and they face a tough opening half of their schedule. It’s hard for me to see anybody supplanting the Jets for the No. 1 pick, but as we saw in 2005, crappy teams can stumble across a couple extra wins.