The San Francisco 49ers have rebuilt themselves nicely from the colossal nightmare that was their mismanagement of players' contracts from the late 1990s through the recent Singletary era. The organization's drafting and player development arms acquired terrible talent for which ownership doled out hefty and franchise-crippling deals. There is the obvious Alex Smith selection as top pick in the 2005 draft, but there were several missteps that left the club with inadequate and overpaid players who never realized what little potential they seemed to truly possess.
Think you can name all seven of the players? Click through the slides and see! Remember to post any players you think may have deserved to be featured on this "Hall of Shame" list.
If players who failed to meet expectations are going to be named, then it's critical to feature the head coach who had a major role in those players' acquisitions. Mike Singletary, with his no-nonsense attitude (and Hall of Fame background), was brought in to provide structure and discipline to a team struggling to find its identity.
While he did flip on the mental switch for Vernon Davis, he also had questionable motivational tactics and tended to draft athletes over football players. His rigid demeanor and highly conservative play-calling proved to be his undoing as he never adapted to being a head coach in the modern era.
Antonio Bryant came to San Francisco after posting decent if not productive numbers with the Cleveland Browns in 2005 (69 rec., 1,008 yards, 14.6 YPC), his third year in the NFL. It is commonly known that wide receivers generally makes a career leap during his third year, prompting the 49ers to sign Bryant in free agency in 2006 to a four-year, $15 million deal, guaranteeing $5 million.
Bryant began his career with the 49ers well, posting back-to-back 100-plus yard games to open the season, but quickly fell out of favor with the coaching staff due to his constant clashing with then-head coach, Mike Nolan. The team released him after just one season. This slide is more of an indictment of the 49ers' management than of Bryant; having parted ways with a talented receiver just a year after giving him so much money up front demonstrated a sheer lack of business sense from the organization.
Coming out of the University of North Carolina for the 2008 NFL Draft, Kentwan Balmer was a boom or bust prospect due to his ideal size but highly questionable work ethic. The 49ers decided he was worth the risk and selected him with their first-round pick at 29th overall. He was an instant flop and registered zero sacks in 27 career games across two seasons with San Francisco. The 49ers thought so little of him that they had no problem trading him to division rival Seattle. The Hawks ended up releasing him a year later.
This is almost too easy. Despite being a third-round draft pick by Tennessee in 2005, Jones never caught more than 449 yards in any season with the Titans, yet San Francisco still decided to ink him to a five-year, $16.5 million deal and give him $5.4 million up front. In his short stint (eight games) with the 49ers, Jones caught one pass for 18 yards. He did not score any touchdowns.
Jeral Jamal "J.J." Stokes was described as the next stellar 49ers receiver after a highly productive career at UCLA caused him to be drafted in the first round by the 49ers. San Francisco traded four draft picks to move up to 10th overall to grab the receiver who possessed an elite combination of size, speed and skill. Fast track four years through a forgettable career that saw an enormous amount of potential evaporate and one will see that Stokes had produced so little that he had even been named the "least valuable receiver in the league."
However, the 49ers still decided to resign their black hole of a roster spot to a seven-year, $21 million extension. Stokes rewarded his front office supporters with zero seasons of over 600 yards receiving.
Smith fails to reach the top spot on this list because much of his failure can be attributed to his mismanaged and disorganized development at the behest of the organization. His first head coach, Mike Nolan, played Smith with a severely injured shoulder that eventually required surgeries. Through 2011, Smith had had a different offensive coordinator and thus a different playbook for every year that he had been in the NFL.
While he may/will never live up to the expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick, he still has a chance to put up decent enough numbers that do not cost the 49ers games. At this point, it is all for which 49ers fans can hope. A Super Bowl victory will go a long way to erase their memories of the unfulfilled hopes for Smith.
Nate Clements became the highest paid player in the NFL in 2007 when he signed an eight-year, $80 million contract (with $22 million guaranteed) with the San Francisco 49ers. He missed the latter half of 2009 with injury and lost his starting spot altogether midway through 2010. New head coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke decided to cut the former Pro Bowler prior to the 2011 season, saving upwards of $15 million in cap space.
Clements only intercepted 10 balls in four years with the 49ers and was far from a shutdown corner. Local bay area writers had to publicly decry why moving him to safety was not in the best interest of the team. Still, Singletary demoted Clements to second string half way through 2010.
Though competition is fierce, Clements should go down as the all-time worst signing in 49ers history. Agree or disagree? Post your thoughts in the comment section below!