San Francisco 49ers

There’s a widespread perception that west coast people aren’t as dedicated or knowledgeable in sports fandom as their east coast counterparts. Now, let me be clear about this: That’s not true, and I’m not sure how that perception ever took hold. After looking at the history of professional sports in North America, though, I think I have an idea of where it comes from; the professional sports teams on the west coast aren’t nearly as old. Hockey has always had a presence out here – the first American team to play in a Stanley Cup Final was the Portland Rosebuds in 1916, and the first American team to win it was the Seattle Metropolitans a year later – but that was back in the early years of professional hockey, with the Stanley Cup drifting from one challenger to the next as teams and leagues, with no organizational structure, simply called each other up and said, “Hey, we hear you have the Stanley Cup, and we challenge you!” When hockey’s foothold was established by the NHL’s Original Six, everyone forgot about sports out west completely.

Everyone knows how the Brooklyn Dodgers shook up the sports fandom establishment by uprooting and moving to Los Angeles in 1957. They had won the World Series just two years before and the Pennant that year. The Dodgers get a lot of credit for opening up the west coast to sports expansion, but they weren’t even close to the first team out there. Credit for that achievement goes to the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL, who beat them to the punch in 1946 as a member of the All-America Football Conference (and just beat the NFL’s Cleveland Rams to the punch – they moved to Los Angeles later that year). The Niners were started by Tony Morabito, a lumber magnate who had been trying for years to lure the NFL to San Francisco. Naturally, he kept getting rebuffed by non-visionaries like George Preston Marshall and George Halas, so when a bunch of football nuts got together and decided to make the AAFC a thing, Morabito finally got his team when the league saw the potential of air travel. The AAFC only last four years, and the Niners stood above and beyond every other team in it… Except for the Cleveland Browns. While the AAFC had a huge audience and money to spare, the dominance of the Browns was so complete that it affected the way people watched games, and it was bad for the league. The Niners never won an AAFC title because there were only four titles in the league’s history, and Cleveland won all four. Still though, since the Niners were so good, they received the invitation to the NFL when the AAFC folded. The Browns and the Baltimore Colts went into the NFL as well.

In 1950, the Niners started their whole new life in the NFL. Their first game as a newly-minted NFL team was against the New York Yanks, and they ended up losing 21-17. That first loss summed up the Niners’ first NFL season in a nutshell: They went 3-9. But after grabbing a backup quarterback named YA Tittle from the Colts, they leapt back out of the basement and became one of the league’s typical bridesmaid teams. Although they were very good during the 50’s, they were never quite good enough, even though Tittle was supplemented by players like running back Hugh McElhenny and linebacker Hardy Brown. The best they were able to do was run out to a 9-3 record in 1953 only be denied an appearance in the NFL Championship after an untimely loss to the Detroit Lions.

In 1957, while the Niners were trailing in a game against the Bears, Morabito died of a heart attack. The team learned of his death at halftime, and the old sports cliche of the team coming back and winning one for the owner played out when the Niners scored 14 unanswered points for a 21-17 victory. Later that year, Tittle made one of the greatest pass plays in team history. In a November game against the Lions, Detroit was leading 31-28 with ten seconds to go when Tittle heaved a desperation pass right to the end zone and into the waiting arms of RC Owens. Tittle and Owens got the touchdown, the victory, and the immortalization when the play became known in team lore as the Alley Oop. 1957 ended with three straight wins, an 8-4 record, a tie with Detroit for the division title, and a single-game divisional playoff for the division title they were tied for. The game turned into one of those tragic heartbreaker moments that fans can’t be blamed for giving up the team after. The Niners were off to the races when the game started, and they were ahead 27-7 by the third quarter. Detroit, reduced to backup quarterback Tobin Rote after star Bobby Layne was injured during the season, chose that time to light a fire under their asses. The Lions came back, made up the difference, and prevailed 31-27. It was the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history until 1993, when the Buffalo Bills erased a 32-point deficit to beat the Houston Oilers. Had the Niners won, they would have played against the Browns in the NFL Championship. But alas, it was the Lions that ended up plastering the Browns 59-14, so at least the Niners could say they lost to the best team in the league. As for the Niners, well, in a couple of decades they would be on the good end of a couple of incredible comebacks themselves. I’ll get to those later.

As The Man in San Francisco, Tittle went to four Pro Bowls and was a star by all means. But by 1960, things there had changed a lot. The team got a new coach, Red Hickey. More importantly, Hickey brought with him a new attacking formation. You may have heard of it: It was called the Shotgun. Hickey introduced the Shotgun in week nine, and this was still during the days of 12-game seasons. It was just Tittle’s luck that he happened to be out nursing a groin injury, so it was his backup, John Brodie, who spent the final weeks of the season running it. The Niners ended up riding Brodie and the Shotgun to three wins in the last four games, which was enough to pull a winning season out of the year – the Niners went 7-5. So Tittle – who was 34 years old by then and considered washed up – mulled retirement, but decided to get back in playing shape to show everyone the kind of quarterback he could truly be. He prepared and trained. He was part of the first preseason game with the Niners in 1961. He was then… Deemed expendable and traded to the New York Giants. But don’t feel too bad for him – his training paid off, and he saved his very best for his last. He started for the Giants for four years, playing the best football of his career, and leading the Giants to the NFL Championship Game in three of them.

Back in San Francisco now, the Niners jumped out to a 4-1 start using the Shotgun. They shut out two of their opponents. Then they played against the Bears, who finally found a way to fight the Shotgun when they moved their players closer to the line of scrimmage and bumrushed the quarterback. The Bears took the game 31-0, and that seemed to deflate the Niners, who went 3-5-1 after that big start in the league’s new 14-game schedule. Even so, the Shotgun immediately became a component of NFL offenses… Which, when you think about it, didn’t do all that much to help the Niners. They spent the next three seasons losing, then rebounded back to a 7-6-1 record in 1965. Brodie was one of the best passers in the NFL that year; he threw for 3112 yards and 30 touchdowns. But things didn’t improve very much – that was followed by 6-6-2, 7-7, and 7-6-1 years before the team started losing again.

In 1970, something that had never happened to the Niners before managed to happen: The team won its division. This was San Francisco’s first title, ever, of ANY kind. They went on to beat the Vikings in their divisional playoff game, which set them up for a date with the vaunted Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship. While the Niners looked like they might be ready to do big things, well, nobody does big like they do in Big D. Dallas was just kicking off the run which would define them as one of the NFL’s marquee teams, which is to say San Francisco lost. The following season came and went, with exactly the same result: Division title, trip to the NFC Championship, loss to Dallas. 1972 brought something entirely new. Instead of winning the division and losing to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship, the Niners won the division and lost to the Cowboys in the divisional round! What made it especially painful this year was the fact that the Niners had run up a 21-6 score by the second quarter, and a 28-13 lead by the fourth quarter. But Dallas managed to start a comeback with a field goal.  Then with two minutes to go, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach heaved a touchdown to Billy Parks. That brought the score to 28-23, Dallas recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Staubach threw another touchdown to Ron Sellers to complete the comeback and the 30-28 victory.

That loss didn’t just beat the 49ers. It deflated them and crushed their spirits. For the next eight years, San Francisco couldn’t even get back to the playoffs. They lost outright for a couple of years, another year they finished at 8-6 but couldn’t get to the playoffs in their loaded conference, and they started making desperation acquisitions as far as players went. One year, they brought in a Heisman winner named Jim Plunkett after he failed in New England. That didn’t go anywhere. Neither did a 1978 trade for a washed-up OJ Simpson. And a pickup of a coach looked like more of the same. Bill Walsh was an acolyte for the legendary Paul Brown, and he had served as Brown’s offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals. He did have experience as a head coach, but that was at the college level with Stanford. And his record at Stanford, despite the popular belief, wasn’t everything it was made out to be; he had never won his conference at the time, and his bowl wins were small write-off bowls. What Walsh DID have was a talent for draft strategy and picks and a knack for finding the right free agents to plug up gaping holes in his rosters. And right in his first Draft, Walsh worked a bit of magic. In the 10th round, he dug up a receiver from Clemson named Dwight Clark, who went to the Pro Bowl. But it was the third round selection which proved to be the most important. Walsh had fallen in love with a quarterback who had saved a huge number of games playing for Notre Dame, but who had fallen in the Draft because he was thinner than the average stick and had suspect arm strength. Most onlookers thought he might someday be a decent system quarterback. You know the type: Get him the right coach, set him up in the right offense, and eh, he’ll be okay. That quarterback’s name was Joe Montana.

Oh, yeah, Walsh also brought one more very important thing with him: An offense that he had devised in Cincinnati which revolved around short, precise, well-time passes which both augmented and sometimes replaced the running game. This method of attacking relied on yards after the catch and a quarterback who could throw with the accuracy of a surgeon. In time, this became known as the West Coast Offense, and like the Shotgun, it’s pretty common today. And like the Shotgun, no one could make heads or tails of it when it showed up. 1979 brought the typical new coach growing pains. The Niners went 2-14, but the team’s then-starting quarterback, Steve DeBerg – who was hardly a franchise guy – performed well with Walsh calling the shots. In 1980, the Niners started rotating DeBerg and Montana. The team ran out to three straight wins to open the year, then dropped the next eight. Even so, though, people started to get the feeling that this team was going to be different. During that eight-loss streak, the Niners were playing well and acquitting themselves well. They were losing, but they were losing respectably, and in close games. No game showed what the Niners would become better than week 14’s game against the winless Saints. The Saints were up at halftime by a score of 35-7. Montana had the Niners rolling in the second half, though, and he led them back to win the game in overtime. At the time, it was the biggest comeback in NFL history.

After 1980, it was clear the Niners were fine on offense. The defense needed work, so Walsh brought in Ronnie Lott, Jack Reynolds, and Fred Dean. With those additions, everyone expected the Niners to be good, but this year, the Niners proved to be GOOD. Posting a 13-3 record, the Niners beat the Giants in the playoffs before meeting their old tormentors, the Cowboys, in the NFC Championship. The Niners had played the Cowboys during the season and hammered them 45-14, but Dallas played San Francisco tough now that it really counted. With five minutes left in the game, Dallas led 27-21. Which, of course was required to be followed by a Joe Montana signature moment. He led a drive to the Cowboys’ six-yard line, but Dallas stood for the first two downs. On third and three, though, Montana launched a pass into the end zone that was so high, it looked like he had overthrown everyone. So Dallas’s defensive backs eased up, thinking their work was done, when Dwight Clark came speeding in from out of nowhere, made an unexpectedly high leap, and caught the ball on his fingertips for the winning touchdown. That moment is known in NFL lore as The Catch, and with it, the Niners finally beat their longtime foes and got to the Super Bowl. And in the Super Bowl, they weren’t going to be denied. Facing the Bengals, the Niners ran off with the game. They were leading 20-0 at halftime, and while Cincy scored a pair of garbage time touchdowns to make the 26-21 final score look respectable, the game was a wash for the Bengals.

A couple more years of getting kicked from the playoffs followed that, including a year where the lost the NFC Championship to Washington despite coming out of a 21-0 hole to put the game in overtime. But it was in 1984 when the Niners perhaps hit their peak. That year, the Niners became the first team to ever win 15 games during the regular season. Ten of their players went to the Pro Bowl. Nine were AP All Pros. San Francisco had its way with everyone that year, and the Niners returned to the Super Bowl to play against the Miami Dan Marino… I mean, the Miami Dolphins, who, really, were Dan Marino and Dan Marino only. Yeah, this one ran like a dream for the Niners. Marino, to his credit, acquitted himself and shined. But he was just one player, and there was only so much he could do against San Francisco. So even though the 38-16 score was better than it looked, it still wasn’t great. And San Francisco’s 15-1 record proved to be a hard act to follow. Only five other teams have posted 15-win regular seasons: The 1985 Bears, 1998 Vikings, 2004 Steelers, 2011 Packers, and 2007 Patriots, who actually managed to win all 16 games. And of those teams, only the 85 Bears followed it by winning the Super Bowl. (The Patriots lost the Super Bowl, and the other three didn’t even get there.)

The next couple of years brought even more big highlights: 1985 marked the first year of professional football for receiver Jerry Rice, who would go on to become one of the NFL’s all-time players. In 1987, the Niners played a game against the vicious Bears and won 41-0 because Chicago’s nasty formation, the 46, turned out to be vulnerable to the West Coast Offense. 1987 also brought a new backup quarterback by the name of Steve Young. You’ll want to remember his name, because it’s going to become important soon. But the third ttle arrived in 1988, with the Niners facing the Bengals in the Super Bowl again. And this one wasn’t a blowout. N fact, Cincinnati gave San Francisco a fight for the ages and seemed to have a victory locked up when they scored a late field goal to make it 16-13, but they did make one mistake: Despite locking the Niners deep into their own territory, there were over three minutes to go, and that was way too much time to leave Joe Montana. Montana took the team on a drive for the ages, culminating in a touchdown pass tossed to John Taylor with 34 seconds left in the game. The Niners won 20-16 because the Bengals didn’t bleed the clock enough.

Bill Walsh decided he was finished after that year and left the controls to George Seifert. Even so, it became one of the Niners’ signature years and a popular candidate for best football team ever. The team went 14-2 while Montana set a passer rating record of 112.4. In the playoffs, the Niners outscored their opponents 126-26, eventually crushing the Denver Broncos in a 55-10 Super Bowl blowout. Over the next couple of years, though, Montana missed large chunks of the regular season because of an elbow injury. Since the team’s backup was Steve fucking Young, the Niners decided they were settled with him as The Man by the time he came back in 1992. That resulted in a quarterback controversy, and the era ended when Montana requested a trade and got one to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Young and Seifert took the reins and the Niners spent the 90’s continuing to dominate. They were one of only three teams to win over 100 games over the course of the decade (the other two were, believe it or not, the Chiefs and the Bills). Rice continued to be his awesome self, but San Francisco didn’t reel in that fifth Super Bowl title until 1994. See, at the time, the team had a dominant offense, but not much of a passing defense to back it up. So in 1994, they signed Deion Sanders for a year. Although Neon Deion had a long enemies list because he was also a media sensation who didn’t have any trouble drawing attention to himself, he was also one of the brightest and most cutthroat defensive backs in history. Suddenly San Francisco’s pass defense was one of the league’s best. After a couple of years of being booted from the playoffs by (who else?) the resurgent Cowboys, the Niners finally destroyed Dallas in the NFC Championship and killed the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl. After that, Sanders bolted to go to a big city that could handle his big personality – Dallas.

The Niners weren’t able to find the magic they way they did in 1994 again. There was a lot of winning, but also a group of playoff ejections by the Packers and one by the Falcons. In 1999, Steve Young got smashed on the blind side by Aeneas Williams, which forced him into retirement. Jerry Rice left after the 2000 season, and the ownership changed hands to the current holders, the Yorks. And at the time, even though the team went 6-10 that year, the Niners really didn’t look like they were in such bad shape. Young’s successor, Jeff Garcia, eventually became a big punchline, but he  received a couple of Pro Bowl invitations during his time as San Francisco’s starter. Lining up opposite Rice for a couple of years was the freakishly gifted Terrell Owens. Running backs Fred Beasley and Charlie Garner were both outstanding, and Garrison Hearst was also on the depth chart, while the Draft produced two multiple Pro Bowlers in long snapper Brian Jennings and linebacker Julian Peterson. The head coach, who was Steve Mariucci by now, even had a winning record.

Unfortunately, Mariucci also had a strained relationship with the York family, and that has summed up the Niners ever since. What should have been continued greatness fell into a string of wayward management. Before that happened, though, the Niners of 2002 gave football fans one final taste of the glory they were drenched in for the previous 20 years. The 2002 Niners went 10-6, won their division, and gave fans one of the great Wild Card games of all time. Against the Giants, the Niners fell behind 28-14 by halftime, and the Giants had extended that lead to 38-14 during the third quarter. But with a history of giving up playoff leads behind them, now it was San Francisco’s turn to come back from the dead. Getting their act together in the third quarter, the Niners started a return by putting eight points of their own on the board. At one point, after scoring a touchdown, Owens did some showboating only to be reminded by New York’s Michael Strahan that the Giants were still up 38-22. When the Niners got another touchdown to pull the score to 38-30, the announcer quipped that the scoreboard suddenly didn’t look so great to Strahan now. Tight end Jeremy Shockey also dropped a reception that would have pulled the Giants up to 42-14. The Giants just fell apart, the Niners put 17 on the board in the last quarter to take a 39-38 lead, and San Francisco’s victory was sealed after the Giants botched the snap for the last-second field goal and the holder threw a very bad desperation pass. The 24-point comeback was the second-biggest in playoff history.

There was a buzz that the Niners, with the first overall pick in the 2005 Draft, would take University of California product Aaron Rodgers. The Draft came, and the Niners took a buzzed-about pick: Alex Smith! I know Smith gets a bad rap, but to his credit, he did eventually develop into a stable quarterback and even get to a couple of Pro Bowls. Trouble was that it all happened on the late side, and Smith had to settle for turning into the exact kind of system quarterback Joe Montana was expected to be in the meantime. And he didn’t exactly have the right system. Hell, he was the only constant in San Francisco for several wasted years, presiding over a string of bad seasons which came with a lot of uninspired coaching changes.

When Jim Harbaugh was hired as head coach in 2011, it looked like he was exactly what the Niners needed. Under Harbaugh, San Francisco went from carpet to contender in no time flat. Harbaugh managed to discover and emphasize Alex Smith’s strengths and exploit them, and turn the defense into a top-notch unit. The Niners went 13-3 in his first year at the helm, beating the Saints in the playoffs before falling to the Giants in the NFC Championship. The message was clear: The Niners were back! The following season, Alex Smith got hurt, but a capable replacement emerged in Colin Kaepernick. Going 11-4-1, the Niners won their division, plowed through Green Bay and Atlanta in the playoffs, and were finally back in the Super Bowl. Their Super Bowl opponents were the Baltimore Ravens, who just so happened to be coached by Jim Harbaugh’s brother John. It should also be mentioned that at this point, San Francisco was 5-0 in the Super Bowl, and so another title without a loss would have spoiled everyone. But Baltimore had the cure. The Ravens took control of the game right off, running up a 21-6 score by halftime. Then the lights went out! No, literally, the lights in the stadium stopped working, and the game was delayed for a half hour in which Jim Harbaugh apparently took the time to light a fire under his own team’s ass. When the light problem was sorted out, the Niners roared back into the game, outscoring Baltimore 25-13 in the second half. Baltimore ultimately won 34-31, but San Francisco made a hell of a comeback, and had one more play gone their way, they could have pushed the game into overtime, if not actually won the damn thing.

The Niners returned to the NFC Championship yet again the next year, but lost to the Seahawks. The year after, they went 8-8. But there was a problem: Owner Jed York didn’t like Jim Harbaugh because he thought Harbaugh was TOO MEAN! Harbaugh and the Niners came to a “mutual” agreement to leave each other, but fans know what that really meant: Harbaugh was shoved out because York didn’t like him. The team is on its third successor since Harbaugh went to the University of Michigan, and each successor looks more pathetic than the last. First it was Jim Tomsula, who won five games. Then it was Chip Kelly, the supposed offensive guru who disappointed the Philadelphia Eagles. He won four games. Now it’s Kyle Shanahan, whose most notable achievement is blowing a 25-point lead in the most recent Super Bowl because he forgot football teams are allowed to run the football. Shanahan decided he was such an offensive genius that he wouldn’t need to hire an offensive coordinator, and the year is going exactly how you would expect: His team is winless.

14 people are honored by the Niners: Steve Young, John Brodie, Joe Montana, Joe Perry, Jimmy Johnson, Hugh McElhenny, Ronnie Lott, Charlie Krueger, Leo Nomellini, Bob St. Clair, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., and Bill Walsh. The names that jump out should be obvious: Joe Montana, who was Tom Brady before Tom Brady actually arrived. A lot of people still argue for Montana being the better of the two, but the more time that goes by, the less I buy into it. Brady has decimated the argument to such a point that the only point most fans are making for Montana now is that Montana never lost a Super Bowl, while Brady lost two to Eli Manning. And despite everyone hammering Eli Manning, he is still an accomplished quarterback – he was invited to four Pro Bowls. Former NFL player and author Tim Green, however, argues in his excellent book The Dark Side of the Game that Steve Young was better than Montana because Young was a better runner. Jerry Rice is on the NFL’s all-time team. He is, almost certainly without argument, the greatest wide receiver in the history of the league and one of the greatest overall football players of all time. He owns just about every receiving record that’s worth anything. The other names don’t really jump out, though, but they do cover a widespread area of NFL history. The notable omission from the list is YA Tittle. Tittle spent most of his career with the 49ers, and he received honors as an All-Pro in 1957, led the league in passing touchdowns in 1955, and went to the Pro Bowl in 1953, 1954, 1957, and 1959. He IS in the team’s Hall of Fame, though, but in fairness to everyone, his accomplishments in his short time with the Giants overshadow everything he did with the Niners. The Niners made him a star. The Giants made him a legend. He won MVP Awards with the Giants, had his best years with the Giants, and led the Giants to three NFL Championship Games. Although the title he so badly wanted eluded him, people look back at his career now and think of what a shame it was that he was never able to close. In his fourth and final year with the Giants – his last in the NFL – he was the subject of one of football’s most iconic photos, sitting on the field, bleeding from his head. (His autobiography says it was his ribs that were really in pain when that picture was taken.) He died in October of 2017 at the ripe old age of 90.

As you might have gathered, the 49ers have been major innovators and influences on the way offense is played in football. The Cowboys may have been the first team to regularly work the Shotgun into their offense, but it was the Niners who first used it. Evolving out of the Single Wing, the Shotgun offers linemen more mobility and a more cohesive pocket for the quarterback. Of course, with everyone using it now, the major weakness is that since it’s primarily a passing formation, using it clues the defense right in to the fact that a pass is probably coming. Later, Bill Walsh introduced the West Coast Offense, which used short, horizontal passes rather than runs in efforts to stretch out opposing defenses and open up the game to long runs and passes. Some of the West Coast Offense’s weaknesses are the fact that a quarterback needs to be accurate and precise rather than simply big-armed. Phil Simms, in his book Sunday Morning Quarterback, wrote a story of one of his coaches telling him to throw the ball over and over again until it was at the exacting speed it needed to be at. It also relies on receivers who are capable of making catches in heavy coverage.

Unfortunately, the Niners have also recently been beaten with one of the more unique and unfavorable distinctions in the NFL. A few years ago, they extorted taxpayers into shelling out a shitload of money for a new place to play which was in Santa Clara, 40 miles outside San Francisco. With the traffic there and back, getting to games has become a reputed nightmare. What’s more, the seating is right in the location where the sun gets to be its hottest. Fans have started to let their displeasure at this situation be known by not going out for games.

What’s more, a few years ago, Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem. Kaepernick – who is by all accounts a stand-up community guy and a gentleman who has never been in trouble – started kneeling in protest of the constant reports of police brutality around the United States and the fact that it constantly gets written off as the work of a bunch of needles in haystacks, and the fact that the officers are always getting let off the hook for accidentally – or perhaps not-so-accidentally – killing innocent black people. That was all he was doing – really, it’s pretty benign, nothing close to the sting of Muhammad Ali saying he ain’t got no beef with them Viet Cong. Unfortunately, his protest got hijacked. First it was by the right, who put their own factless spin on it by claiming he was being disrespectful to the troops. Then after the movement picked up after Donald Trump started making comments about how the players should have all been banned, it got hijacked by pretty much everyone. In the meantime, while the owners and players teaming up is a cute and fuzzy story, owners colluded against Kaepernick. Kaepernick is a hundred times better than a lot of quarterbacks in the league right now, but he’s not playing. In the meantime, Tom Savage is at the head of the depth chart in Houston. Buffalo signed a backup quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass since around 2011. The official report on that player, Joe Webb, says he last played quarterback years ago and has since “dabbled in other positions.” In other words, he’s not a quarterback. All Colin Kaepernick wanted to do was raise awareness of a particular social injustice, and now he’s out of a career while everyone who follows the NFL has become a raging asshole.

Really, the reasons to adopt the San Francisco 49ers these days are largely historic. Their 80’s and 90’s dynasty continues to capture the imaginations of fans who are now capable of turning on Youtube and seeing the classic games in their entirety: The 1988 Super Bowl against the Bengals, the big comebacks against New Orleans and New York, Montana going toe to toe with Marino in his prime. These days, it’s hard to find a more dysfunctional team. Hell, one magazine said the Niners were the worst overall sports franchise in the country. And why would you like them if you’re looking for a team right now? Their owner sucks. They let go of a great coach because they didn’t like his attitude. They built a stadium in a place no one wants to go and gouge fans for the “privilege.” Even their best asset, Colin Kaepernick, was let go by the team because of a situation which caused fans who ordinarily use the American flag as a blanket get up in arms about an askew version of respect which apparently doesn’t apply to themselves. This team is the face of the reasons the NFL is starting to lose fans.

Pros

Have a history of revolutionizing offensive football; are rarely a truly bad or unwatchable team; have produced some of football’s most recognizable icons; everyone knows their brand

Cons

Play at a stadium 40 miles outside their city; are currently a truly bad and unwatchable team; have destroyed themselves because their owner is petulant; can’t escape from their own shadow

Should you be a fan?

You should probably wait until the NFL finds its brain first. This team has managed to become one of the NFL’s biggest symbols of its own hubris.

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