Walking into Levi’s Stadium last Sunday brought me back to the great rivalry between the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s.
There was hope that the 49ers would make it a competitive contest against their old rival. After all, heading into Week 7, the team had lost five straight games by a combined 13 points.
I was certainly fooled.
The 49ers were beaten soundly, 40-10, and finally exposed for the lack of depth and talent they have. Starting rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard and playing safety Eric Reid at linebacker against the Cowboys’ massive offensive line proved to be a recipe for disaster.
The highlight of the day was a touching halftime tribute to Dwight Clark — the man who changed the course of the NFL with “The Catch” in the 1982 NFC Championship against Dallas and led San Francisco to the first of its five Super Bowl titles, and who now is fighting for his life in a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
At 0-7 with a road game on deck in Philadelphia, the 49ers are headed to their first 0-8 start in franchise history. The Eagles are the best team in the NFC with a 6-1 record and a second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz, who is on absolute fire. (My roommate, who is from Philadelphia, can’t go five minutes of his life without talking about him.)
Was last Sunday rock bottom? Tough to say, but what exactly is rock bottom? When will this all flip for the 49ers? I wish I could tell you, but let me share this little story …
On Tuesday evening, I was searching the tube for something entertaining, but nothing really captured my mind. I scrolled through my DVR and found “The Timeline,” a program on the NFL Network that documents the most iconic moments in the league’s history.
This particular episode was on the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise in its first year of existence. John McKay was taking a crack at coaching in the NFL, after winning four national championships at USC. And long before Ron Wolf was fitted for his Hall of Fame gold jacket, he was starting his first stint as the Buccaneers general manager.
The episode was particularly interesting, because it’s not difficult to compare those decrepit, terrible football teams in Tampa Bay with the present-day 49ers.
The Buccaneers went the entire 1976 season without the thrill of victory (0-14) and opened up the ’77 seasons with 12 straight losses before ending on a high note and winning their final two.
Two seasons later, Tampa Bay turned it around and advanced to the NFC Championship.
Yes, there’s hope! Especially in today’s NFL, where the league is completely wide-open.
It’s going to require a ton of patience, as first-year head coach in Kyle Shanahan and first-year general manager John Lynch are learning how to navigate a franchise in their respective roles. And quite frankly, they’re going to take their lumps.
Here’s the reality: Since Week 11 of the 2015 season, the 49ers are a pathetic 4-26, the second-worst record over that stretch behind the atrocious Cleveland Browns.
No, the 49ers haven’t lost 26 in a row like ’76-77 Yucs, but after witnessing them get steamrolled by the Cowboys, winning four of your last 30 games isn’t anything to gloat about.
Trent Baalke, who directed and called the shots as the general manager from 2011 to 2016, left this franchise devoid of NFL talent. Like those sorry Buccaneers teams, the 49ers roster is littered with young, raw players across the board with zero depth.
The coaching staff is inexperienced as well, and it showed against the Cowboys when they stunningly rolled out a dime defense. Just didn’t make sense. It also doesn’t help that the 49ers are tied with the Browns as the most penalized team in football.
After “The Timeline,” I glanced at the 49ers schedule and concluded it’s very possible that they’ll join the 1960 Cowboys, 1976 Bucs, 1982 Baltimore Colts and the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only win-less teams in NFL history.
It’s sad that this storied franchise, littered with Hall of Famers and five rings, is trying to salvage pride and win a single game. It’s rough now, and it hurts the Faithful that it’s gotten to this point.
But like the Yucs, the 49ers can turn it around. It just won’t happen overnight.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from 12-3 on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.