Writer's note: This is the third and final installment of the San Francisco 49ers' All-"No" Team. The first part can be viewed by clicking here, "49ers-all-no-team-part-one" title="Part one" target="_blank">The San Francisco 49ers' All-"No" Team, Pt. 1: Skill Positions " and the second installment can be viewed by clicking here, "The San Francisco 49ers All-"No" Team, Pt. 2: The Linemen."
With the NFL draft fast approaching and free agency in full swing, I have read some great articles recounting the 49ers ' glory years. I’ve seen articles about favorite 49ers teams, articles comparing Steve Young to Joe Montana, and articles reliving “The Catch” and “The Stop.” Ah...those were the days!
You won’t find that here.
If I could have had a longer title, I would have added "And What Not To Do" at the end.
I have decided to assemble a 49ers team based on some of the franchise's worst decisions in the last 30 or so years.
So as you’re reading, please keep this in mind. Being bad doesn’t always get you on the team, though it does help. The decision to bring you in, or even to release you, might be the deciding factor for this team.
“No more bread and butter, no more toast and jam.”—The Newbeats, "Bread and Butter" (1961)
Cornerbacks: Antonio Langham and Mark McMillan
Almost every joke about Antonio Langham’s tenure with the 49ers already has been said—“He was toast of the town” or “He was the toast of the Bay." So I will spare you trying to pass those off as my own.
But one thing I am reminded of is when the 49ers drafted Glen Coffee. Confused? Let me explain.
When Coffee was drafted in 2009, all of the local media types tried to outdo themselves in coming up with clever names for the backfield. There was “Frank (Gore) and (Coffee) Beans,” and one even suggested bringing O.J. back for “The All Breakfast Backfield.” I thought to myself, how could you have breakfast without anything to eat—right?
Even with a continental breakfast you have to have toast.
Well, Langham and this secondary will provide plenty of that.
After four years with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens, Langham signed with the 49ers in 1998. He had plenty of starting experience, was named Cleveland’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in '94, had a few picks—nothing to write home about, but the 49ers' brain trust (Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark) were convinced he was primed for a breakout season. In fact, they were so convinced that they signed him for five years and $17 million, including a $3.5 million signing bonus.
Suffice it to say—they were wrong.
Langham gave up five touchdowns and was flagged eight times for pass interference. He managed this in only 11 games as he missed five with an injury.
This is the way one fan remembers Langham’s tenure with the team:
“I still have a collage of images featuring the No. 43 chasing an opposing receiver into the end zone. That guy was @#$%^ awful...I mean, seriously. Just terrible. Worst DB I have ever seen wear a 49ers uniform. I've never seen a guy get beat so many times in a season in my life.
He was the ONLY scar on that '98 Niners roster, but he was a glowing green scab that you just couldn't take your eyes away from.” (by shleckothegecko)
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
As a parting gift, Policy and Clark negotiated an expansion draft deal and took Langham with them to the second coming of the Cleveland Browns. ...
Why in the hell would you sign the smallest man in the league to play cornerback?
Well, perhaps it was because he had made a barrage of big-time plays before signing with the 49ers.
But the 5’7” Mark McMillan must have realized he was too short to cover NFL receivers when he got to the 49ers.
After signing a three-year deal, he was let go after a mere six games. In the last of those games, against the Carolina Panthers, he yielded three touchdowns.
Safties: Dana Hall and Mike Rumph
Free agency hasn’t always been kind to our secondary, but then again, neither has the draft.
With the 18th selection in the 1992 draft, the 49ers selected safety (and, they hoped, heir apparent to Ronnie Lott) Dana Hall out of the University of Washington.
Not only did Hall quickly prove that he couldn’t carry Lott’s jockstrap (apologies to Larry Holmes), but he also became a lightning rod for opposing quarterbacks and deep pass plays. Can’t you still smell the ozone?
Hall exited the Bay after three seasons. ...
Mike Rumph was drafted as a cornerback but was moved to safety because of his god-awful coverage skills.
Rumph and Hall have a lot in common. Both were drafted in the first round by the 49ers. Hall had four interceptions in three seasons with the team and Rumph had three in four seasons. Hall went to the University of Washington; Rumph went to the Washington Redskins…okay, okay.
We all know what they had in common…can you hear the Newbeats?
Nickel and dimes: Marquez Pope, Tyrone Drakeford, and Eric Carter.
Dishonorable mention to the sub-6-foot secondary of the 1999 team: The 5’7” McMillan, Darnell Walker (5’8”), and giant R.W. McQuarters at 5’10” (some would say 5' 9").
“I’m waiting in line, would you say I’m wasting my time?”—Phil Collins, "I Missed Again" (1981)
The Linebackers: Todd Shell, Winfred Tubbs, and Tully-Banta Cain
I recently wrote an article titled “2010 NFL Draft: San Francisco 49ers—The Last 20 Years in First-Round Picks.” As you might have guessed it graded the team's first-round choices of the last 20 years.
Had I graded every pick starting with the Bill Walsh era (as this article does), I would have handed out a big fat D- to the team’s top pick (24th overall) of 1984, linebacker Todd Shell.
Shell wasn’t a complete failure. He did manage two sacks and three interceptions, which included a 53-yard return for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in his rookie season.
He managed another four sacks and one interception in his sophomore campaign, in which he started 13 games.
But injuries set in and Shell was off the team and out of football after only four seasons.
In keeping with the spirit of a life of crime after football, as demonstrated by Lawrence Phillips and Adrian Cooper in part one of the All-No Team, in 2003, Shell was charged with an “extreme DUI” in Gilbert, Ariz.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he decided to duck behind a business in Mesa, Ariz., for a little blow in 2005. Police arrested Shell when they found a “clear bag that contained a white powder believed to be cocaine, along with a straw, inside of his shorts pocket,” according to the police report.
Shell was turned over to the Gilbert police for an outstanding warrant stemming from his earlier DUI arrest.
Shell proved he could finally make a prudent decision when he resigned his position as coach of the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League.
“I have decided that it is in the best interest of the Rattlers and my family to step down,” Shell said in a statement carried by NBC Sports.
After a crappy football career, and flushing his new coaching career down the toilet, Shell turned to pot…well okay, potties.
Yep, it's true, Todd decided to “shell” out some bucks and invest in the “Porta Potty” industry.
Shell invested in a Web site that hooks up mobile restaurants (roach coaches) with portable toilets.
Jeez, there are just too many crappy jokes here to go on.
It could have been worse I suppose. The Dallas Cowboys, who picked immediately after the 49ers in the '84 draft, also selected a linebacker. His name was Billy Cannon Jr. and he lasted only one season, appearing in eight games.
In an interesting note, Cannon’s father, Billy Cannon Sr., is a former Heisman Trophy winner (1959) and NFL running back who played for the Oilers, Raiders, and Chiefs.
He was convicted of counterfeiting in 1983 and served two and half years of a five-year prison sentence. ...
Can a football player really be named Winfred? Doesn’t that sound like the guy at the Polo Club, wearing a blazer with an ascot and having drinks with his girlfriend Muffy?
After Tubbs set a Saints record for tackles (160) in 1997, the 49ers signed him to what was then a monster deal: five years, $14.25 million, and a $4 million signing bonus.
If you were to look at Tubbs' stats, they don’t look bad at all. He was the team’s second-leading tackler two of his three years in San Francisco.
But I think what the 49ers had in mind when they signed him to replace Gary Plummer was for some of those tackles to take place inside of 5 yards—maybe even at or behind the line of scrimmage, Winfred?
The team tried moving Tubbs from middle linebacker to the outside spot, but when that didn’t work, Tubbs was off to star in a video game.
If the name Winfred wasn’t bad enough, it has to be humiliating to a former pro football player to have your biography on Wikipedia state:
“Winfred Tubbs is perhaps best known for his appearance in the arcade football game NFL Blitz.” ...
Let’s just call Tully-Banta Cain “Tubbs Two” and be done with it. With the exceptions that Cain couldn’t even stay in the starting lineup and was signed to rush the passer rather than stop the run.
It is telling when a player accepts a major pay cut after only one season to stay with the team. Even at a reduced cost, the 49ers released him after his second uneventful season with the team.
Backups: Saleem Rasheed and Hannibal Navies
The Not So Special Teams
“Did I miss again? I think I missed again, oh oh...”—Phil again
Kicker: Mike Cofer
In the time between Ray Wersching and Joe Nedney, the 49ers employed no fewer than 12 kickers.
When you're employing guys with names like Mike “Choker” and “Wide” Richey, as well as rejects from the XFL who can’t hit from beyond 39 yards, you know you have a problem.
One kicker I had completely forgotten about was Owen Pochman. My fellow Featured Columnist, Patrick Goulding II, reminded me of him in his article, “Could Be Worse: Five Players 49ers Faithful Can Be Glad to Be Rid of .” Patrick was correct: Pochman was terrible, hitting a mere 53.3 percent of his field goal tries before being released halfway though the 2003 season.
But as bad as Pochman was, Tony Zendejas was worse. In 1995, Zendejas managed just one field goal on three attempts, in three games, before giving way to Jeff Wilkins.
Zendejas had been claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons to replace Doug Brien, who had just been given the boot (pardon the pun) after missing yet another last-second field goal that would have won a game.
But again, this team isn’t always about the worst player—it is about the worst decisions.
Zendejas, Pochman, Brien, and Jose Cortez all were cut after failing to do what they were signed for.
So why in the world would the team keep Mike Cofer around after he missed 12 attempts in 1990?
So he could follow it up with a 14-of-28 showing the following season?
A kicker and his confidence are fragile things; once they get a case of the yips, chances are they will never recover. Cofer certainly didn’t after his Pro Bowl season of 1989.
Just to torture fans, the team kept Cofer around for two more years and he managed to miss 34 kicks on 53 attempts.
Dishonorable mention: letting Wilkins get away and sign with the division rival Rams.
Punter: Eddie Howard
Trivia question: Who was the team’s punter before Andy Lee?
A tougher question might be to name the 14 punters the team carried prior to drafting Lee.
Going back to the start of the Bill Walsh era, that equates to a little less than two seasons for the average punter.
But one guy stands alone: Eddie Howard.
Howard and Reggie Roby both had worked out for the team prior to the start of the 1998 season. The team signed Howard because it could get him on the cheap.
After only two games, and with a league-low 36-yard average, Howard was released, and the team welcomed Roby with open arms.
Just for fun: Who was the team’s barefoot punter?
Answers to trivia questions:
1) Bill Lafleur was the punter before Lee.
2) Lafleur, Jason Baker, Chad Stanley, Howard, Roby, Tommy Thompson, Klaus Wilmsmeyer, Joe Prokop, Ralph Mojsiejenko, Barry Helton, Max Runager, Tom Orosz, Jim Miller, and Dan Melville were the 14 punters before Lee going back to 1979.
3) Miller was the team’s barefoot punter.
Here is the entire starting lineup for the All-"No" Team:
Quarterback: Jim Druckenmiller
Wideouts and Tight End: Renaldo Nehemiah, J.J. Stokes, Adrian Cooper
Running Backs: Lawrence Phillips and Johnny Johnson
Defensive Line: Israel Ifeanyi, Todd Kelly, Reggie McGrew, and Gabe Wilkins
Offensive Line (and they are offensive !)
Tackles: Kwame Harris and Jonas Jennings
Center: Terry Donahue
Guards: Ron Stone and Anthony Clement
Cornerbacks: Antonio Langham and Mark McMillan
Safties: Dana Hall and Mike Rumph
Linebackers: Todd Shell, Winfred Tubbs and Tully-Banta Cain
Not So Special Teams
Kicker: Mike Cofer
Punter: Eddie Howard
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