A year ago, it would have been unthinkable. A year ago, the 49ers had just come off a third straight trip to the NFC Championship Game and there was no reason to believe they wouldn’t be contenders again in 2014.
But after an 8-8 season, no playoffs and an overhaul of the coaching staff, the 49ers now rank among the NFL also-rans in the minds of many NFL observers.
Consider: When Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote a story this week looking at the top 10 challengers to the champion New England Patriots in 2015, the 49ers – who went 36-11-1 from 2011-2013 – didn’t make the cut.
The Seahawks and Packers were 1-2, followed by the Steelers, Broncos, Ravens, Panthers, Cowboys, Eagles, Lions and Colts.
Also this week, the New York Daily News’ NFL writer, Gary Myers, predicted his playoff field for the coming season – and the Niners didn’t warrant even a wild-card berth.
An NFL betting website also is predicting the 49ers as the No. 3 team in the NFC West in 2015, behind the Seahawks and Cardinals. In fact, it predicts the 49ers’ record in 2015 will be even worse than it was in 2014.
Of course, opinions may change as this offseason unfolds and the 49ers bring in free agents, pick up some talent in the draft, install offensive and defensive schemes under new coordinators and it becomes more apparent what kind of head coach Jim Tomsula will be.
But for now, expectations nationally are low for the 49ers and Tomsula in the 2015 season. NFL observers look at Tomsula and the parting with Harbaugh as signs the organization is going in the wrong direction.
Jason McIntyre, writing for the Big Lead, is among that group. After Tomsula was hired, McIntyre wrote:
“That’s the absolute best job (GM) Trent Baalke could do? Jed York’s going to be looking for a new GM – and coach – in about three years.”