clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What if: Taking away a Super Bowl win

George Seifert was on the hot seat in 1994 and a familiar face was in line to be the next head coach. If the 49ers didn’t make it to the Super bowl things would have been different.

We’re in the midst of “what if” week at SB Nation. The NFL team sites are coming up with their favorite reimaginings of franchise history. We opened the week asking what might have happened if the Jim Harbaugh relationship had not deteriorated. Then, we talked about what might have been had the 49ers followed Bill Walsh’s advice and drafted Jake Plummer over Jim Druckenmiller. Yesterday, Fooch brought up the strip-sack of Drew Brees that led to flags and the loss of home field advantage.

Today we’ll go from a really good memory and wonder what would happen if it was painful: What would happen if the 49ers didn’t win Super Bowl XXIX, or not even make it entirely?

There’s a little known piece of trivia that then-head coach George Seifert was on the hot seat in 1994. I’m not sure where this story originated, but it was all but confirmed by Clark Judge (a former 49ers beat writer) when he had Mike Shanahan on the Talk is Fame Network podcast. Here was what Judge said in that appearance:

I’m not sure our listeners know this, but had the 49ers not won that year [1994]—or if they had not gotten to the Super Bowl— you [Mike Shanahan] were going to be the next head coach of the team. You would have succeeded George Seifert.

In Seifert’s first season as head coach he led the team to a Super Bowl win and a two-peat started with the Super Bowl victory for departing head coach Bill Walsh the previous year. Unfortunately, the years following led to the 49ers coming up short. Their chance at a three-peat was squashed with Roger Craig fumbling the ball with minutes left the following season.

The seasons following seemed to grow worse. A 10-6 record kept them out of the playoffs entirely in 1991. 1992 and 1993 led to NFC Championship losses to the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers pushed all their chips to the center in 1994 signing Deion Sanders, Gary Plummer, Rickey Jackson, and Ken Norton. This “super team” had no excuse to win the big one, but started out terribly. They lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, whom they traded Joe Montana to a year prior and got blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks later.

The aforementioned blowout led to the benching of Steve Young and a visible sideline exchange where Young was none too happy with the decision.

It all pointed to another disappointing season where the 49ers may not even make the NFC Championship. The plan probably was to let Seifert coach out the season, then let him go and promote Mike Shanahan to head coach.

So what happens?

Well, the 49ers wouldn’t have made it to, or won Super Bowl XXIX but the inevitable wasn’t delayed. Seifert would resign following the 1996 season, so this would have sped things up without that Super Bowl win and Shanahan wouldn’t have gone to the Denver Broncos.

Instead Shanahan, one of Young’s favorite offensive coordinators, would stick with the team. In his autobiography, Young spoke about how the loss of Shanahan was devastating and how the two had bonded over gameplanning every season. Given the timing, this almost would have ensured that Steve Mariucci would not become head coach for the 1997 season.

So that leaves what happens in 1995 and 1996—losses to none other than the Green Bay Packers. In 1995, the 49ers offense sputtered, and in 1996 the Packers laid 36 points on them while the 49ers only managed 17 points. Would the 49ers have even played the Packers and if they did, would the outcome had been different?

Also, given how the seasons went, would Shanahan been around the fateful day Steve Young’s career ended? Would he have stuck with Jeff Garcia or would he have identified a different quarterback to develop? If Shanahan was better the Seifert you can argue either way, but as good as Mariucci is, it may be safe to say Shanahan was a better offensive mind.

Regardless, this alternate universe may meet rejoin the threads of reality in 2002. That was the same year Mariucci was fired, and it’s safe to say with the Yorks coming in, Shanahan could have potentially suffered the same fate.

How long do you think Shanahan lasted, and what, if any Super Bowls could the 49ers have made up for not getting Super Bowl XXIX?