49ers’ Mike Nolan is the Worst Coach in Franchise History

If you are a Forever Faithful San Francisco 49ers fan than odds are you have endured some of the most disappointing, frustrating, and embarrassing seasons in NFL history. From vastly underperforming to losing close games due to clock management, the Niners have had their fair share of woes during the course of their 67-year history. And with the 49ers striking gold with current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, as he literally revived the 49ers culture and winning ways, the question remains who is the 49ers worst coach in franchise history?

Although some people may vouch for Dennis Erickson (2003-2004) and deservedly so, my vote goes to a legacy in Mike Nolan (2005-2008). The son of former 49ers head coach Dick Nolan (1968-1975), Mike was a disaster from the get-go as he encouraged camp fights during training camp. That’s right Nolan encouraged camp fights. In his first season, Nolan finished dead last in the NFC West while mustering a 4-12 record. And while he had little talent on the offensive side of the ball, the defense was also in shambles.

A previous 2-14 record the year prior, a 4-12 record was a two-game improvement, but still not good enough by 49ers standards. Not to mention, Nolan was also the team’s General Manager, it was Nolan that hand picked QB Alex Smith instead of QB Aaron Rodgers with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft. Furthermore, Nolan was quick to point the blame on others rather than himself during post game pressers which led to division between player and coach, something that is non-existent with current head coach Jim Harbaugh.


With Nolan coming off a 4-12 record, the 49ers continued that positive momentum in 2006 as they finished with a modest 7-9 record. A season that was a great improvement from 2004, it was RB Frank Gore that had a career-season as he rushed 312 times for 1,695 yards and 8 touchdowns while CB Walt Harris had a Pro Bowl season with 63 tackles, 8 interceptions (one returned for touchdown), 20 pass break-ups, four forced fumbles, and two recoveries. Two players that were selected to the Pro Bowl that season, Nolan did have talent on the team. However, 2007 would be a different story as the team underperformed to a very disappointing 5-11 record, despite fielding a strong draft class in ILB Patrick Willis and T Joe Staley.

A team that took one step forward and two steps back, the 49ers found themselves once again as the laughingstock of the NFL. And with Nolan’s offense’s finishing dead last in the NFL in two of his first three seasons, the writing was on the wall that the end was near. In 2008 the end came, as Nolan’s porous 2-5 record led to his firing.

A huge disappointment, as Nolan signed a five-year contract worth $8.4 million, he has to be the 49ers worst coach in franchise history. And despite Nolan being a great General Manager as he had an eye for talent it was his disastrous 18-37 record as a coach combined with not being a player’s coach that ultimately was his downfall.

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.

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