San Francisco 49ers: The All-Bad Team
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There is no shortage of San Francisco 49ers all-time greats.
Whether one wants to cite the accolades of former 49ers like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and a plethora of others, San Francisco has enjoyed some of the greatest athletes to ever play in the NFL.
A short while back, I wrote an article about the all-time 49er greats. San Francisco's all-time team was relatively easy to assemble, the only difficulties coming from the fact that there have been so many greats over the years to don a 49ers uniform. Presented in a historical-fantasy-type of fashion, the all-time team was laid out highlighting the best players at each position along with a number of notable backups.
There is a flip side, however.
While San Francisco has one of the most storied legacies in football, there have also been a significant number of bad players on its roster.
Some have been overrated, highly touted draft picks who were expected to come in and bolster the franchise. Others were costly trades that never paid dividends. A number of players were never great in the first place and started in positions merely because circumstances dictated the necessity.
Yet contained herein is the San Francisco All-Bad Team dating back to 1970 and the start of the modern era in the NFL.
In order to make this list, players must have some sort of reason to be cited as "bad." Either there were high expectations placed on them in which the players never lived up to, or their performances were simply so atrocious that their mention cannot be avoided.
What makes compiling a list like this difficult is that most "bad" players do not typically wind up staying on the roster for any lengthy period of time. Given that circumstance, there has to be something especially bad that makes any such player stand out.
Certainly there have been some non-noteworthy 49ers over the years who never made an impact. For example, running back Brandon Jacobs played in only two games last year and had only five rushing attempts. Given what he did with the New York Giants in years prior, those stats are pretty bad. Yet Jacobs never had those high hopes placed on him when he became a member of the 49ers, therefore he does not warrant placement on this all-bad team.
No need to worry, however. There are plenty of other disappointments on this list 49er fans would unquestionably like to forget about.
Here it is: the San Francisco 49ers All-Bad team dating back to 1970.
Dennis Erickson endured two miserable years in San Francisco.
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Head Coach: Dennis Erickson (2003 - 2004)
Offensive Coordinator: Ken Meyer (1977)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Nolan (2005 - 2008)
49er fans would cringe if they heard that Dennis Erickson, Ken Meyer and Mike Nolan would headline the coaching trio in San Francisco.
Dennis Erickson, Head Coach
It is hard to argue with this choice. Dennis Erickson was brought in as head coach to replace Steve Mariucci after he was dismissed following the 2002 season. While the 49ers were reportedly eyeballing a number of other possible candidates for the job, San Francisco's then-general manager Terry Donahue selected Erickson to take over the position, signing him to a five-year deal.
Erickson had been a long-time collegiate coach and had some success, yet he also had two forgettable years as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
Even 49ers owner John York was unsure about the move and an article written by Ira Miller of SF Gate highlighted York's doubt. It read:
York also said that Erickson "probably was not close to the top candidate when we first started" looking for a coach. York said he did not know exactly how Donahue ranked the original candidates, however, because he, York, did not get involved in the coaching stage until the list was whittled.
Erickson inherited a mess in the making. San Francisco, bombarded by internal player problems and salary cap constraints, was en route towards disaster. While some head coaches could meet this sort of challenge head on, like Bill Walsh had done over 20 years earlier, Erickson had no chance.
His head coaching record was an abysmal 9-23 which actually makes him look like a better coach than he actually was. San Francisco finished third and fourth respectively within the division each of Erickson's two years. In 2004, the 49ers went 2-14.
No wonder Erickson was fired directly after the season.
His accolades, or lack thereof, resulted in Erickson finding his way onto Deadspin's list of the worst head coaches of all time ranked at number 14. Why he ever received a five-year deal is beyond most anyone's comprehension.
Ken Meyer, Offensive Coordinator
Mike Martz comes close to making this selection; however, Ken Meyer wins out as he was at the helm when the 49ers entered their first disastrous period in the modern era.
San Francisco hired Meyer to be their head coach before the 1977 season. Like Erickson a number of years later, Meyer was coming into a very bad situation. The franchise, which had just been sold to Eddie DeBartolo Jr., hired Joe Thomas as their general manager shortly before. Thomas set to work destroying the franchise almost as if he intended to do so from the very beginning.
Sadly for Meyer, he would be at the helm of a team entering one of the darkest periods in franchise history.
The 49ers started the season 0-5 which included two shutouts. While San Francisco would finish the year 5-9, the team still posted awful statistics including a scoring differential of -20 points along with a turnover differential of -7.
Thomas, who never hesitated to remove players and coaches from their respective positions, dropped the axe on Meyer after only one year and the 49ers would have to endure another season of misery before Thomas' eventual firing and the subsequent hiring of a new head coach named Bill Walsh.
Meyer was the direct product of a bad situation in San Francisco. Fortunately, he was able to go on and have some success as an offensive coordinator and special assistant both at the collegiate and professional levels.
Yet his time in San Francisco is probably best forgotten.
Mike Nolan, Defensive Coordinator
Had Mike Nolan been merely a defensive coordinator in San Francisco, his tenure with the franchise might not have been all that bad. Yet Nolan wound up becoming the head coach of the team from 2005 through the midway point of the 2008 season.
That stretch was pretty bad.
In a way, Nolan could be thanked for being the initial architect on the 49ers' current success. After all, he did end up drafting running back Frank Gore, linebacker Patrick Willis and tight end Vernon Davis, each of whom have become linchpins in San Francisco.
Yet Nolan joined the 49ers with lofty goals and never achieved them. He is perhaps best remembered for selecting quarterback Alex Smith with the first-overall pick in the 2005 draft instead of quarterback and Northern California native Aaron Rodgers. The selection was apparently due to the fact that Nolan felt Rodgers had too much of an ego while Smith did not.
Even after the selection of Smith, Nolan and the new 49er quarterback eventually butted heads resulting in a situation that plagued Smith for the majority of his first five years in San Francisco.
During his three-and-a-half-year tenure with the 49ers, Nolan achieved a 18-37 record with his team finishing no higher than third within the NFC West.
Nolan talked big, accomplished very little and the 49ers would continue to struggle for a number of years after he was fired mid-season in 2008.
Mike Cofer struggled over his 49er tenure.
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Kicker: Mike Cofer (1988 - 1993)
Punter: Barry Helton (1988 - 1990)
Mike Cofer, Kicker
While Jose Cortez is a legitimate runner-up on this list, Mike Cofer takes the prize of being the least-noteworthy kicker to don a 49er uniform. Cortez spent not even two years in San Francisco and Cofer endured over twice the misery. The over-drafted Jeff Chandler and horrid Owen Pochman are also worth noting, yet neither stayed long enough to earn commemoration on the all-bad team.
Yes, one must acknowledge that Cofer actually had two decent seasons in San Francisco, including a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1989. Yet Cofer fell out of favor the season after and never resurrected his career with the 49ers. Take a look at his field goal percentages during his six-year tenure with the 49ers:
1988: 71.1 percent (19th)
1989: 80.6 percent (5th)
1990: 66.7 percent (27th)
1991: 50 percent (28th - last)
1992: 66.7 percent (22nd)
1993: 61.5 percent (27th)
If Cofer was only part of the 49ers franchise through 1989, this discussion would not be taking place. Yet his final four years in San Francisco were awful. There is no other way around it.
Cofer went on to play one more season in 1994, playing with the Indianapolis Colts where his completion percentage was 44.4 percent. If there is any consolation for 49er fans, Cofer at least kept his percentage at or above 50 in San Francisco.
Barry Helton, Punter
It may be difficult to throw a punter onto this list at all. Punters are a specific breed of football player that is rarely special and easily forgotten. After all, who wants to write about punters?
Yet if someone had to write about the worst 49er punter of all time, one would likely choose Barry Helton. Helton was selected in the fourth round of the 1988 draft by San Francisco and he went on to have a lackluster three-year career with the team.
During that time frame, Helton punted 202 times averaging only 36.8 yards a punt which is good for last among 49er punters with at least 100 punts since 1970.
San Francisco wasted a draft pick on him?
If there is any consolation for Helton, he does have a perfect passing record, completing a single pass in 1990.
The Defensive Line
Kentwan Balmer epitomizes a first-round bust.
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Defensive Ends: Todd Kelly (1993-1994), Israel Ifeanyi (1996)
Defensive Tackles: Reggie McGrew (1999-2002), Kentwan Balmer (2008-2009)
There have been a few defensive ends and tackles who have never performed up to expectations with the 49ers. Yet the one commonality between all the starters on the all-bad team is the fact that each were selected by San Francisco early in the draft. Sadly, each of these wound up performing more like a late-round flier at best, instead of an early round breakout.
Todd Kelly, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
OK, so Todd Kelly switched to linebacker as a 49er after playing as an end in college at Tennessee. Plus there needs to be room for some of the bad linebackers in San Francisco.
As such, the 49ers drafted Kelly with the 27th overall pick in the 1993 draft hoping to find a replacement for the pass-rushing specialist Charles Haley, who had left the team two years before. Kelly had a tremendous collegiate career, which included an All-SEC nomination in 1992. After being drafted, the 49ers attempted to convert Kelly from a defensive end to a linebacker, and the experience backfired.
In all, Kelly would start only six games with the 49ers over two years, recording 4.5 sacks. He would fare little better in stints with Cincinnati and Atlanta after San Francisco parted ways with him.
What makes this selection even more painful is the fact that future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan was still on the board when Kelly was selected. Fortunately, the 49ers were able to draft his eventual replacement in Bryant Young the following year, and Kelly's tenure was easy to forget.
Israel Ifeanyi, Defensive End
There is not a whole lot of information about Israel Ifeanyi. There are reasons behind that.
In fact, there was not a lot about him when he came out of USC.
When San Francisco selected him in the second round of the 1996 draft, head coach George Seifert was looking for a solid pass-rusher and thought he had found one in Ifeanyi. Sadly and correctly, no one else thought so.
Ifeanyi wound up playing in only three games his rookie year before being released by San Francisco. That was the extent of his NFL career.
So much for the proverbial "diamond in the rough" Seifert thought he had. At best, it was a wasted second-round pick and a perfect example of what not to do in the draft.
Reggie McGrew, Defensive Tackle
There were plenty of high hopes placed on the former Florida defensive tackle Reggie McGrew when the 49ers selected him with the 24th overall pick during the 1999 NFL draft.
Coming out of college, McGrew was expected to bolster a defensive line that had lost Dana Stubblefield the year before and to supplement an injured Bryant Young. McGrew wound up doing nothing of the sort.
Instead, McGrew showed up to training camp out of shape and then suffered a number of injuries that resulted in him missing his entire rookie year. He eventually played only 22 games in his 49er career and started none of them.
San Francisco wisely admitted its mistake in September 2002 and released its former first-round draft bust.
McGrew was supposed to be a tremendous addition to the 49ers defense, an accolade that seemed to warrant his selection in the first round. Yet he never amounted to anything and wound up appearing afterward in only two games with the Atlanta Falcons before ending his NFL career.
Had he stayed in shape and not suffered the injuries that thwarted his career, McGrew may have amounted to something. Yet one cannot ignore the fact that he was a complete bust and therefore warrants placement on this list.
Kentwan Balmer, Defensive Tackle
Similar to McGrew, Kentwan Balmer was also brought in as a first-round pick to help bolster a 49ers defense that was in desperate need of upgrades. When the 49ers drafted him with the 29th overall pick in the 2008 draft, the team was still mired in the mess of the Mike Nolan era and, despite a number of good draft picks, was still struggling to make headway in the division.
Even more surprising is the fact that Balmer did not exactly possess collegiate credentials worthy of a first-round pick. Perhaps his drafting was a direct oversight from Nolan on down the line.
Shortly after he was drafted, Balmer made relatively little effort to help a team that was looking for an impact-type of player. Instead, he received hardly any playing time at all and never started a game during his two years with the 49ers.
In fact, Balmer only played in roughly 16 percent of snaps in 2009, which hardly warrants his first-round selection.
Then in 2010, Balmer again was on rough footing with the 49ers. Electing to not show up to training camp, the team was rumored to be going after his signing bonus, which was reported by Gregg Rosenthal of NBC Sports. Thankfully, San Francisco did not wait around long to find out how the situation would pan out and eventually traded Balmer to the Seattle Seahawks for a sixth-round pick.
So, what did the 49ers get out of their 2008 first-round draft pick? Not much. Balmer hardly got on the field during his San Francisco stint. Balmer did wind up starting 11 games in Seattle in 2010 but then went on to Washington, where his career sputtered out.
Gabe Wilkins, Defensive End (1998-1999): He was a highly touted free-agent acquisition, but injuries derailed his 49er career.
Marques Douglas, Defensive Tackle/End (2005-2008): He was decent but highly overrated and parallels a time when San Francisco's defense was outright bad.
Jamie Winborn never lived up to his second-round draft status.
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Outside Linebackers: Todd Shell (1984-1987), Tully Banta-Cain (2007-2008)
Inside Linebackers: Jamie Winborn (2001-2005), Saleem Rasheed (2002-2005)
It is pleasant for 49er fans to think of their current linebacker corps. Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks headline one of the fiercest and respected groups in the NFL today. Yet there are a number of bad linebackers who have spent time with the Red and Gold.
Todd Shell, Outside Linebacker
While the 49ers had some great first-round draft picks during the 1980s—look no further than Ronnie Lott—they also made a few boneheaded mistakes. Todd Shell out of BYU was no exception.
Selected by San Francisco with the 24th overall pick in the 1984 draft, Shell was coming to a franchise that already had a dynamic defense. Shell even impressed in his rookie season, posting two sacks and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Yet Shell's career started to spiral downward the year afterward, and eventually he wound up playing in only seven games between 1986 and 1987. After that, his career with the 49ers and in the NFL came to a close.
Sadly, his life after football was no less disappointing. He became mixed up in a number of legal issues that have stained his post-NFL career.
Fortunately for the 49ers, Shell's mediocre career is easily overlooked, as San Francisco remained the most dominant team of the 1980s. Still, Shell deserves to be on this list having been selected so early during the 1984 draft.
Tully Banta-Cain, Outside Linebacker
When the 49ers brought in Tully Banta-Cain, who had a great season in New England the year before, San Francisco was hoping to continue the process of rebuilding a franchise that had fallen on hard times.
Banta-Cain was another one of those players the 49ers hoped would set the bar high in the pass rush. He had mentioned, via SF Gate, that he would enjoy playing in the 3-4 defense that San Francisco employed at the time and would also benefit from returning to his home in Northern California.
Yet, nothing of the sort really happened in San Francisco. Well, he probably enjoyed being close to home at least.
During his 49er tenure, Banta-Cain posted only four sacks and started a mere 10 games with a San Francisco defense that was desperately looking for help. Needless to say, the 49ers saw no need in retaining him, and he was released following the 2008 season.
Banta-Cain returned to New England after his time with the 49ers and had the best year of his career in 2009, posting a total of 10 sacks that season. Two years later, he was out of football.
While Banta-Cain may not be the worst player in 49ers history by any stretch, there was a lot of expectations put on him that he never lived up to. He did well before the 49ers and had a great season one year removed. Yet his time in San Francisco is worth forgetting—or perhaps worth noting, as he gets recognition on this list.
Jamie Winborn, Inside/Outside Linebacker
Jamie Winborn's failure may be due to a bad situation more than the result of his own talents. When he was drafted by San Francisco in the second round of the 2001 draft, the team was entering a phase of problems and difficulty that shook the organization from top to bottom.
Winborn may have suffered as well, and his statistics tell the story.
In college at Vanderbilt, Winborn excelled, earning a First Team All-SEC nomination in 1999. The 49ers thought they would be getting a solid two-way open-field player who would blossom into one of the league's best.
Further adding to Winborn's story and hopes was the fact that he endured a rough childhood filled with adversity that certainly gave him motivation to overcome obstacles.
Sadly, he was never able to overcome the obstacle of the 49ers of the 2000s.
Unable to fit into the 3-4 defense and struggling to get on the field with any sort of consistency, the 49ers parted ways with Winborn during the 2005 season. Winborn wound up playing for a number of other teams and has not played since 2010.
Saleem Rasheed, Inside Linebacker
Another player who may fit the bill of being in a bad situation was former Alabama linebacker Saleem Rasheed. Taken by the 49ers in the third round of the 2002 draft, Rasheed came into a mess in San Francisco. The team was going to have its final year of decency before descending into the Dennis Erickson era, and Rasheed would be a part of some of the darkest years in franchise history.
As bad as the 49ers became, Rasheed could never get onto the field with any sort of consistency. Instead, he played in only 45 games during his four-year career with San Francisco and started in only four of them. He did record 28 tackles during that span, including 13 in 2004, but his stat line is pretty bare-bones.
San Francisco let Rasheed go after 2005, and he has not played in the NFL since.
In Rasheed's case, he was drafted too high and was never developed into anything useful. Legal issues also thwarted any chance for him to have a legitimate shot at returning to the NFL. Sadly, that is his legacy.
Winfred Tubbs, Outside/Inside Linebacker (1998-2000): OK, so he went to the Pro Bowl in 1998, but he never came close to justifying his huge free-agent contract with San Francisco.
Manny Lawson, Outside Linebacker (2006-2010): Being drafted in the first round should have resulted in him becoming one of the NFL's best. Instead he was part of one of the worst linebacker groups in the NFL. He was decent, but his expectations were never lived up to.
Mark McMillian's undersized stature is an understatement.
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Cornerbacks: Antonio Langham (1998), Mark McMillian (1999)
The 49ers must have been experimenting with some strange things at cornerback during the late 1990s.
When the 49ers brought in cornerback Antonio Langham after a four-year career split between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco's top brass was hoping for a solid corner who could bolster a defense that was starting to lose its footing against rivals like the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams.
Langham was an experienced player and had started for much of his career. He had been drafted ninth overall in 1994 and there were prospects for a fabled NFL career. He had totaled 12 interceptions in his four prior seasons, and the 49ers were hoping that his contributions would continue in San Francisco.
Sadly, they did not.
For some reason, Langham was signed to a long-term contract with the 49ers yet only survived one season with the team. During his 1998 season, Langham was flagged for eight pass-interference penalties and gave up five touchdowns in only six starts. Injuries and ineptitude thwarted his time in San Francisco.
It was a good thing that the 49ers were rid of him the following year.
Following the 1998 season, Langham was on his way out and McMillian was on his way in.
First off, let us applaud players who can make it to the NFL at 5'7" and 154 pounds. There are not a lot of corners in the league who can overcome that stature.
There is a reason for that.
His 49er term aside for a moment, McMillian did have some memorable moments in the NFL, which included eight interceptions—three of which were returned for touchdowns during the 1997 season when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Yet, for some reason, which may be difficult to describe, the 49ers wanted to bring him to San Francisco. After signing a three-year deal, McMillian was released after only six games and a forgettable showing in the 49ers backfield.
Sure, a player cannot simply grow taller to compete at the NFL level. In this case, McMillian was probably best suited at something other than football and called it quits after the 1999 season.
If the 49ers were putting together a reunion of bad players, McMillian would certainly get an invite.
Nate Clements (2007-2010): He had some decent moments in San Francisco, but was he ever worth the lucrative contract he received as a free agent? No.
Marquez Pope (1995-1998): The former 1992 second-round pick of the San Diego Chargers had one good season in San Francisco in 1996, but injuries and bad decisions warrant the dishonorable mention.
Dana Hall never emerged as the top-tier safety the 49ers wanted.
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Safeties: Dana Hall (1992-1994), Mike Rumph (2002-2005)
There were definitely a few to choose from here; yet, the winners, or losers as it were, are Dana Hall and Mike Rumph. 2010 second-round pick Taylor Mays could be mentioned, but San Francisco hardly got a glimpse of him on the field unlike Rumph, who, perhaps, it saw too much of.
Dana Hall was supposed to be the safety of the future replacing the departing Ronnie Lott.
Nothing of the sort ever happened.
Granted, it would be difficult for any rookie to try to fill the void left by Lott. Yet, when San Francisco selected Hall with the 18th overall pick in the 1992 draft, it was in for a big surprise. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant one.
Hall initially signed only a three-year deal after being drafted and did not receive any signing bonus—interesting, considering his first-round draft status.
Yet, Hall never transferred his talents over to the NFL level. While he did have a promising rookie season, in which he played in 15 games and totaled two interceptions and one sack, Hall is perhaps best known for suffering a number of injuries that limited his action the subsequent two years in San Francisco.
On the positive side, Hall's misfortune opened up the door for fellow safety Merton Hanks to take the predominant role in the 49ers backfield. That makes Hall's draft and signing a little easier to handle.
Regardless, Hall was a huge disappointment. Certainly, he never lived up to the expectations placed on him to replace Lott, but he also never emerged as a reliable safety in the NFL, either. He would go on to have a mediocre career with Cleveland and Jacksonville before retiring after the 1997 season.
There are those who may think Taylor Mays belongs in this spot. Sure, Mays was a disappointment and one of the "stains" of the Mike Singletary era in San Francisco. Yet Mays' accomplishments, or lack thereof, are difficult to translate. Simply put, he hardly had an impact with the 49ers.
On the other hand, there is Mike Rumph. Rumph was drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft and was expected to help thwart the dangerous aerial assault being implemented by their division rival St. Louis Rams.
Similar to a number of other players who were drafted by San Francisco around that time, Rumph entered an ugly situation. The 49ers were beginning to deteriorate and Rumph would, in many ways, be directly associated with the team's fall from grace.
While Rumph did have a decent year in 2003, the wheels were already falling off—both literally and figuratively. When he was on the field, he was bad. His lack of coverage skills mandated the 49ers to experiment with him at safety. That did not work so well either.
Rumph would be plagued by injuries his remaining two years in San Francisco and would take the field only five times before departing after the 2005 season. He would go on to have one more lackluster year with the Washington Redskins before falling out of football in 2007.
During this period of bad 49er teams, it is hard to leave Rumph off any list that highlights some of the worst 49ers of all time.
Taylor Mays (2010): Mike Singletary thought he would become a star player. 49ers fans know better.
The Offensive Line
Kwame Harris epitomizes 49er fans' frustrations.
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Center: Bill Reid (1975)
Guards: Tim Hanshaw (1996-1998), Chilo Rachal (2008-2011)
Offensive Tackles: Anthony Clement (2005), Jonas Jennings (2005-2008), Kwame Harris (2003-2007)
Yes, I realize that there are three tackles listed. Well, they are just that bad and need to be described in further detail. In a way, each of them warranted the need to construct this list.
Thankfully, the 49ers currently boast one of the best offensive lines in football. Yet, many fans can clearly recall years in which the offensive line was a disaster. Sadly, a number of those players make this list. Even worse, some of them were playing alongside each other.
Bill Reid, Center
It is not totally fair to have Bill Reid on this list. First of all, he had to fill the void left by perennial Pro Bowler Forrest Blue entering the 1975 season. Then Randy Cross took over the starting job in 1976 and stayed there until 1978 before moving to guard through 1986.
Furthermore, the 49ers have enjoyed a number of solid centers over the years, including Jesse Sapolu, Fred Quillan, Jeremy Newberry and now Jonathan Goodwin.
The only bad part of Reid's career was that it was very short. He played only one season with the 49ers and was gone by the 1976 season. Yet, in 1975 the 49ers were not that good, going 5-9 under head coach Dick Nolan (yes, his son has already been mentioned). The offensive line was a part of the problem, giving up 33 sacks over the course of the season.
Reid was not a part of the solution and was not good enough to warrant sticking around any longer.
Tim Hanshaw, Guard
Similar to Reid, Hanshaw is tough to put on this list. No worries, though—there are plenty of disappointments to come.
What warrants Hanshaw's placement is the fact that the 6'5", 300-pound lineman should have been a better product in the NFL. Coming out of BYU and drafted by the 49ers in the fourth round of the 1995 draft, San Francisco should have gotten at least something out of him.
Unfortunately, the 49ers offensive line was already in great shape, and Hanshaw was relegated to backup duty, starting only three games during his three-year 49er career.
After his term expired, nobody else around the league liked what they saw and Hanshaw's NFL playing days were all but over.
Chilo Rachal, Guard
The guy San Francisco drafted before Chilo Rachal is already on this list: Kentwan Balmer. Rachal backs him up.
Looking at the 2008 49ers draft class, one might have to wonder what exactly San Francisco was thinking. Well, it was still the Mike Nolan era until the middle of the season, and despite having a number of decent draft selections in years prior, it is safe to say that the 49ers whiffed on this draft.
Rachal was no exception. Taken in the second round with the 39th overall pick, Rachal was supposed to be a boon to an offensive line that was prone to giving up sacks to then-quarterback Alex Smith.
Yet, Rachal turned into a tremendous bust, struggling to retain a starting job during his four years with the 49ers. Blocking was a serious problem, and Rachal struggled with his consistency for his entire tenure.
Steve Busichio of Niners Nation sums up Rachal's problems and the frustration felt by many San Francisco fans by writing, "Chilo Rachal? In short, he couldn't block a friend on Facebook if he wanted to."
Those may be pretty harsh words, but they are accurate.
For some reason, Rachal was able to stick around with the 49ers through the 2011 season. By that point, new head coach Jim Harbaugh had seen enough and was willing to admit San Francisco's mistake by opening up competition at the position.
As a result, and thankfully so, Rachal was gone at the end of the year.
Anthony Clement, Tackle
The good news: Anthony Clement was only around for one season. The bad news: Anthony Clement was a 49er for one season.
This is another one of those signings that highlights the mess of a situation San Francisco was in at the start of the 2005 season. Head coach Mike Nolan brought Clement in for reasons that are still unknown to this writer. True, Clement had a decent tenure with the Arizona Cardinals after they drafted him in the second round back in 1998, but his lone season with the 49ers was a disaster.
If there is any consolation for this abysmal 49er, it is the fact that he only started six times over the course of the 2005 season. Considering how bad San Francisco's offensive line was that year, Clement not retaining a starting job speaks volumes. Clement's departure at year's end says even more.
The 49ers were unquestionably bidding him good riddance when he left.
Jonas Jennings, Tackle
I remember being excited about the 49ers' signing of Jonas Jennings. Needless to say, I was wrong about that one.
The year was 2005 and San Francisco was a complete mess. Do we notice a trend here? Jennings was brought in as a free agent by Mike Nolan in an attempt to bolster the offensive line. Much like Anthony Clement in the same year, the 49ers were hoping to get a veteran tackle who could solve the myriad problems San Francisco's offensive line had been experiencing.
The signing appeared to be a smart move at the outset.
Jennings had a solid start to his career in Buffalo and looked like he would be able to carry that same success over to the 49ers. Yet, after starting the first three games of the season, Jennings was placed on injured reserve and missed the remainder of the year.
Injuries and personal issues were a reoccurring theme with Jennings during his 49er career. Despite his talents, Jennings was unable to ever play a full season with the 49ers and played a mere 23 games in San Francisco over his four-year tenure.
When asked about his injuries by CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco (via ninersnation.com), Jennings defended himself by saying:
Being hurt [?] I don't worry about things I don't control. People say this and say that, but everything I've been out for I've had to have surgery for. What can I do about that? Two shoulder surgeries, hand, ankles. If you play a violent game violently, man, of course something's going to come out of it. But I can't stop this guy from rolling me up in the back. That stuff is unavoidable. If I got caught up in that and worried about all of that, I'd probably have same amount of gray hairs you have.
San Francisco's experiment with Jennings had run its course at the end of the 2008 season, and Jennings was let go, much to the delight of 49er fans and writers.
Had he stayed healthy, Jennings may have been a bright spot during San Francisco's dark years. Injuries, however, thwarted that possibility.
Kwame Harris, Tackle
49ers tackle Kwame Harris is the principle reason behind the writing of this article. He may be a top candidate for the worst 49er of all time according to some opinions.
What makes Harris' story so spectacular is that he was actually highly touted out of Stanford. Entering the 2003 NFL draft, Harris was ranked as the second highest tackle according to NFL Draft Scout.
Judging by that alone, a first-round draft selection would make sense for the 49ers. They needed to get younger and there were salary-cap issues. A player like Harris seemed to make perfect sense.
Hindsight states otherwise.
We do have to give Harris some credit. He was a good run-blocker. He was consistently healthy. Yet, his positive attributes end there.
Harris was known for many things on the field and almost all of them were bad. He was atrocious in pass protection, terribly prone to bad penalties, and he never came anywhere close to becoming a top offensive lineman like his first-round draft status would suggest.
According to STATS, Inc., Harris allowed 8.5 sacks in 2006 with four holding penalties and one false start. The season before, Harris allowed 9.5 sacks and committed 15 penalties, seven of them false starts (via USA Today).
The befuddling part of Harris' career with the 49ers is the fact that he was able to stay on the roster for five seasons. It did not take long for San Francisco's coaches to realize that he would never develop into the player they had hoped for. Thankfully, however, Harris was relegated to backup duty in 2007 when then-rookie Joe Staley took over the starting job.
Perhaps analysts can examine the fact that the 49ers were abysmal during Harris' tenure. Maybe that is why he stuck around for so long, yet there must have been better options somewhere. Too bad the 49er brass held on to the notion that Harris may turn into something at some point.
He never did.
Harris left the 49ers after the season hoping for a fresh start in Oakland, where he signed a three-year, $16 million deal. Yet, even the Raiders realized that Harris was not worth their time, and the team cut him after only one season.
His legacy in San Francisco remains as being one of the least popular and abysmal players in franchise history. If there was a poster boy for the all-bad team, Harris could easily fit the bill.
David Bass, Guard/Center (2005-2010): Sure, he was not terrible, but as a high second-round pick, he should have been much better. He struggled to earn a starting job and never turned into the player the 49ers hoped for.
Walt Downing, Guard (1978-1983): This second-round pick had only one starting season—his rookie year. Needless to say, he underachieved.
Ron Singleton, Tackle (1977-1980): He may have been a victim of poor circumstance rather than performance. San Francisco was bad during this stretch, and he never developed with the team, leading to his retirement after five NFL seasons (four with the 49ers).
Ken MacAfee was a first-round bust.
Tight End: Ken MacAfee (1978-1979)
When a rookie prospect is selected in the first round, seventh overall, there has to be a large amount of expectations placed upon him.
Such is the case for former tight end Ken MacAfee.
San Francisco was in the midst of the Joe Thomas era of debacle when MacAfee was drafted before the 1978 season. MacAfee was highly regarded in college, spending his collegiate days at Notre Dame. As a seventh overall pick, MacAfee was expected to contribute immediately and help a 49er franchise turn around its fortunes.
Neither scenario happened.
Examining the numbers, MacAfee does not appear all that bad as a tight end. Over two years, he posted 46 receptions for 471 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 10.2 yards each reception.
Yet, the 49ers asked him to switch to guard after the 1979 season and MacAfee declined, instead choosing to pursue dental school.
Talk about a bad return on a big investment.
O.J. Simpson's best years were in Buffalo, not San Francisco.
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Running Back: O.J. Simpson (1978-1979)
Orenthal James Simpson may very well have been one of the best running backs to ever play the game during his heyday. Yet, Simpson's best days were clearly behind him long before he came to the 49ers.
If Simpson was brought to San Francisco for cheap—say, a couple of late draft picks—then his legacy with the 49ers may not have been all that bad; an aging star coming to a new team in the twilight of his career. Thus, he probably would not have found his way onto the all-bad team.
Yet, Simpson did not come cheap, and that is putting it mildly.
In another brilliant (cough, cough) moment by former general manager Joe Thomas, Simpson was acquired from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a total of five draft picks, including a first-round 1979 pick and two second-round picks in 1978 and 1980, respectively.
It is hard to fathom any sort of trade like this ever taking place today, even for the best of players.
However, that is exactly what the 49ers did. Hoping that returning to his hometown in San Francisco would revitalize his dwindling career, Simpson did the exact opposite. Instead, he turned in two miserable years with the 49ers at a time when the franchise was already a quagmire.
His stats in San Francisco: 281 rushing attempts for 1,053 yards and four touchdowns.
Simpson's legs were all but done. His knees were giving out. Simply put, the trade should have never happened.
Sadly, it did, and Simpson stands as one of, if not the worst, 49ers of all time.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wrote an article highlighting the worst in San Francisco history and Simpson's name was atop the list. One contributor to the column wrote:
Worst ever Niner? That's easy. OJ Simpson. Heard of him? Cost the Niners two [second]-round picks that turned out to be very early picks. And for what? Had maybe three decent games, nothing more, then got hurt. Talk about lost years. In 1978, I couldn't give my tickets away, even if I bought them beer at the game. Would rather clean the garage, they would say.
Those are pretty harsh words, and they describe perfectly the lost years of Simpson and the 49er franchise during the late 1970s.
Everyone knows of Simpson's post-NFL legacy and I need not describe it any further. Yet, his status as a member of the 49ers is horrid.
As previously stated, that trade never should have happened.
Lawrence Phillips (1999): Phillips was a first-round bust who allowed the hit that ended Steve Young's career. Enough said.
Dexter Carter (1990-1995, 1996): Another first-round bust who never filled the void left by Roger Craig. At least he was good at returns.
J.J. Stokes is one of the bigger 49er disappointments.
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Wide Receivers: J.J. Stokes (1995-2002), Rashaun Woods (2004-2005), Antonio Bryant (2006)
There are plenty of great 49er receivers. Any casual fan can name at least a few. On the other hand, however, there have been plenty of bad receivers as well. The three on this list highlight the "Hall of Shame" receivers that San Francisco has employed over the years. There could easily be more, yet these three top the charts.
It is unfair to draft a player hoping to be the heir apparent to Jerry Rice. After all, will there ever be a wide receiver to ever live up to Rice's accolades? Probably not; yet, the 49ers were hoping to get at least a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver when they drafted J.J. Stokes with the 10th overall pick in the 1995 draft.
What makes Stokes' drafting even more painful is the fact that San Francisco gave up a plethora of picks to move up to the 10th spot. The picks included their own first-round pick that year, along with a third- and a fourth-round pick, combined with a first-round pick in 1996.
The Baltimore Ravens eventually ended up with that 1996 pick and drafted linebacker Ray Lewis.
If one wanted to consider Stokes a third or fourth receiver on the depth charts, and the 49ers drafted him accordingly, then Stokes would not warrant placement on this list. Yet, Stokes was a costly commodity that San Francisco apparently had to get its hands on.
Less could be said about Stokes and his ability to catch the ball.
His career numbers over eight years in San Francisco include 327 receptions for 4,139 yards and 30 touchdowns. Stokes' best seasons came in 1997, 1998 and 2000. Yet, he never broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark at any point during his career and never came close to being a viable replacement for Rice.
Stokes complained a lot, dropped balls a lot, and turned in a lackluster career in San Francisco.
Woods is another one of those first-round busts who are hard to look at.
Granted, Woods was not drafted to be an heir apparent for a top receiver. He came to the 49ers in the first round of the 2004 draft and was going to be playing for a team that would finish an abysmal 2-14 that year. The 49ers were that bad in the 2004 season, and in a way, Woods became one of the low-lights of that terrible season.
Yet, necessity seemed to dictate Woods' drafting. While not necessarily touted as the best receiver with the most potential, many felt that Woods would be able to contribute right away, which is something the depleted 49ers needed at the time.
Woods never contributed, however.
In his rookie season, which turned out to be his only one, Woods played in 14 games and caught only seven passes for 160 yards and a touchdown.
OK, so he was a rookie. Eight years later, San Francisco would draft another wide receiver in the first round and that receiver, A.J. Jenkins, has yet to catch an NFL pass. Woods, on the other hand, was injured before the 2005 season and spent the entire year on injured reserve.
Instead of waiting around to see if Woods could recover, San Francisco parted ways with the disgruntled receiver by trading him to the San Diego Chargers before the 2006 season. San Diego rid itself of him shortly thereafter.
To say that Woods was a disappointment is a vast understatement.
Craig Massei of Scout.com (subscription required) summarized Woods' brief tenure with San Francisco when he wrote:
In the back of the minds of many, there still is a lingering belief that Woods must be more than he ever showed with the 49ers, that he still is a talent with potential that could finally bloom when healthy and given another chance. But the Niners already had seen enough. In two seasons, Woods gave them seven receptions and one touchdown – not to mention loads of frustration regarding why they seemed to be more bothered by that production than Woods ever was.
Maybe Woods could have developed into something useful. Perhaps his career was doomed from the beginning. Either way, San Francisco made a huge mistake in drafting him, and Woods turned into one of the greatest busts in team history.
He had high expectations and never lived up to them; therefore, he finds himself on the not-so-honorable list of 49er flops.
I remember wondering why the 49ers spent so much money on free agent Antonio Bryant before the 2006 season. Perhaps this is another low-light of the Mike Nolan era that further justifies the former head coach being placed on the all-bad team.
For some reason, San Francisco signed Bryant to a four-year, $14 million contract in a feeble attempt to assist its dilapidated receiver corps. Needless to say, it was a boneheaded move by the 49ers, and problems were certainly going to arise.
From the get-go, Bryant clashed with Nolan, upset at not being a bigger factor in San Francisco's offense. Then later in the season, Bryant was arrested on a drunk driving charge, which resulted in a four-game suspension due to a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Bryant was released only one year into his contract and later signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, turning in a 1,200-yard season.
His time in San Francisco was terrible, however. While he may have been a playmaker to a certain degree, Bryant was a head-case and not worthy of the lengthy contract the 49ers opted to give him as a free agent.
As a result, Bryant cannot be avoided on the list of San Francisco's worst.
Darrell Jackson (2007): He used to be good...remember?
Braylon Edwards (2011): Edwards was a one-year, $3.5 million experiment plagued by injuries and disappointment.
Derrick Hamilton (2004-2005): Hamilton was drafted by the 49ers in the third round and never caught a single pass. At least he got some practice time in Canada.
Jim Druckenmiller is regarded as one of the biggest 49er flops ever.
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Quarterback: Jim Druckenmiller (1997-1998)
Any quarterback coming to play for the 49ers is going to have to live in the shadows of San Francisco greats. There was Y.A. Tittle in the 1950s followed by Joe Montana and Steve Young in the 1980s and 1990s. While living up to any of those Hall of Fame quarterbacks would be difficult at best, the 49ers have certainly had their fair share of quarterback flops.
Jim Druckenmiller was supposed to be the successor to Steve Young. Yeah, that never happened.
To be fair, Druckenmiller was not exactly a poor choice by the 49ers at the time. Receiving an All Big East selection in 1996, Druckenmiller was highly touted coming out of college. Even Bill Walsh, consulting for the 49ers at the time, was reported as saying Druckenmiller was the most talented quarterback coming out in the draft.
Walsh knew a quarterback when he saw one, right? Well in this case, Walsh got it wrong.
Nobody knew it at the time, however, and San Francisco selected Druckenmiller in the first round of the 1997 draft.
Then-head coach Steve Mariucci was excited about drafting Druckenmiller as well and touted the rookie prospect by saying:
He brings so much to the table. He was the highest rated player left on the draft board, which is in keeping with 49ers philosophy to pick the best player on the board We want to draft tough players at every position. I believe a quarterback has to be a tough guy physically and mentally. When you get to know Jim, he's as tough as they come. He fills a need. We need a young quarterback for the future to come in and compete for the backup spot that we can groom and develop. We feel his tools will allow us to groom him like a 49ers quarterback. He is a perfect fit. We're anxious to get him in here.
Apparently Druckenmiller had the support from much of San Francisco's top brass. They were going to turn him into their future franchise quarterback, and he would go on to continue in the tradition of Montana and Young.
Of course, 49er fans know exactly what happened thereafter.
Druckenmiller was abysmal during his first career start, completing 10 passes out of 27 attempts for 102 yards and one touchdown. He also threw three interceptions.
Subsequent appearances were also horrible and the young quarterback never came close to living up to his potential. He struggled on the 49ers depth chart and never developed into the young and promising quarterback that mentors like Walsh and Mariucci hoped he would become.
His career stat line with the 49ers: 21 completions out of 52 attempts for 239 yards. He had one touchdown against four interceptions and was sacked four times. In all, Druckenmiller played only six games with the 49ers and lasted only two seasons before being traded to the Miami Dolphins, who cut him a year later.
An ESPN ranking, published in 2008, listed Druckenmiller as the 11th-highest all-time bust in NFL history during the modern era.
If Druckenmiller was good, or bad, enough to make that list, there is no way he can be avoided on this one.
Jim Plunkett (1976-1977): His trade cost the 49ers a lot of draft picks, and he never put things together in San Francisco.
Steve DeBerg (1978-1980): He was part of a bad team, so his stats are skewed. At least he helped, in part, further Joe Montana's career.
Ken Dorsey (2004-2005): How did he ever get onto the field? Oh yeah, the 49ers were that bad in 2004.
Kwame Harris defined a bad period in 49er history.
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There have been plenty of 49ers "not-so" greats in their storied history.
A number of these players deserve to be on this list. Others, perhaps as a direct result of the circumstances that surrounded them, underachieved and unfortunately warrant being mentioned.
Certainly, there are a number of players who did not make this list, and it's possible that I left off a few in the process of compiling San Francisco's All-Bad team. Yet, the majority, if not all, belong on this wall of shame in 49ers lore.
Thankfully, San Francisco fans will not have to endure watching any of these players take the field as a 49er ever again. Their contributions, or lack thereof, define a number of rough patches in team history.
There are parallels. Many were high draft picks who never turned out to be anything useful, let alone special. Others were brought into the organization at times when it was being poorly led and coached. Whatever the case, the all-bad team must be recognized, even if it stands in stark contrast to the great teams and players the 49ers have enjoyed over the decades.
After all, how can someone measure greatness without examining the lowest of the low?
Do you feel as if I missed out on a player or two? Post up on the comments and speak your opinion!
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist writing for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.