The 49ers have a long and storied history. Since 1979, they have reached the playoffs 24 times, won 17 NFC West championships, played in 16 NFC Championship games, and played in seven Super Bowls, winning five. Over that time, the team has employed a total of 10 head coaches.
Kyle Shanahan makes the list. Take a look at the list for where he ranks and why.
5.) Steve Mariucci
After one season at Cal, Mariucci became the 49ers head coach in 1997. Inheriting a roster that included a Hall of Fame quarterback and the greatest wide receiver of all time, Mariucci found immediate success.
In his first season the 49ers finished 13-3, reaching the NFC championship game. San Francisco fell short to Green Bay, their third playoff loss to the Packers in consecutive seasons.
Mariucci and the 49ers finally got past Green Bay the following season. Trailing late in the fourth quarter in an NFC Wild Card game, Steve Young found Terrell Owens down the middle for a touchdown to vanquish the Packers. They would lose to Atlanta the following week.
In 1999, a brutal hit in week three against Arizona ended Young’s career. As a result, Mariucci became the first 49ers coach in over 20 years to not have a Hall of Fame quarterback running the show. San Francisco also failed to win at least 10 games for the first time since 1982.
After two rough years, Mariucci had rebuilt the 49ers into playoff contenders behind former Canadian Football League star Jeff Garcia and Owens.
Despite making the team relevant again, Mariucci was fired following a playoff loss to Tampa Bay in January 2003.
4.) George Seifert
Seifert inherited a Super Bowl winning team in 1989 which feature a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and several others who would eventually reach Canton.
With Seifert at the helm, San Francisco won the Super Bowl again and nearly reached its third in a row the following year.
Seifert oversaw the transition from Joe Montana to Steve Young in 1991, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1982.
Following consecutive losses to Dallas in the NFC championship game, San Francisco took advantage of the newly implemented salary cap to poach several free agents. The additions, including Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, helped the 49ers finally get past Dallas and win the fifth Super Bowl in franchise history.
Losses to Green Bay the next two seasons would lead to the end of Seifert’s time with the 49ers.
With only one year left on Seifert’s contract, the team set out to bring in Steve Mariucci to serve as his understudy. Instead, Seifert chose to resign.
Seifert returned to the NFL in 1999 to coach the Carolina Panthers. In three seasons with Carolina, Seifert won just 16 games. He was fired in 2001 following a 1-15 campaign.
3.) Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh inherited a talented, but underachieving roster when he replaced Mike Singletary in 2011.
One thing Harbaugh did not inherit was a Hall of Fame quarterback.
It’s safe to say nobody expected anything from Alex Smith. The former number one pick looked to be on his way out. Just another draft bust. Harbaugh saw something in Smith, naming him as his starter.
San Francisco shocked the NFL, finishing 13-3 and reaching the NFC championship game before falling 20-17 to the New York Giants in overtime.
Season two saw Harbaugh replace Smith with Colin Kaepernick after the former suffered a concussion against the Rams in week ten. Kaepernick took the league by storm, setting playoff records while leading San Francisco to the sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.
Another trip to the NFC championship game followed as the 49ers won consecutive playoff games on the road. A loss to Seattle set off a chain of events which would lead to Harbaugh and the 49ers deciding to part ways following the 2014 season.
Harbaugh finished his tenure with a .695 winning percentage.
2.) Kyle Shanahan
Shanahan is ranked ahead of Seifert and Harbaugh because of the situation he walked into.
Unlike those two, Shanahan took over a team which had become an NFL laughingstock following a pair of disastrous seasons with Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly at the helm.
The first two seasons of Shanahan’s tenure were spent rebuilding the roster. By year three the 49ers were 13-3 and headed to their seventh Super Bowl. Over the next three seasons San Francisco would reach the NFC championship game twice.
Shanahan’s time with the 49ers follows a similar pattern to that of Bill Walsh, with one major difference.
Unlike Walsh who quickly figured out the quarterback position, Shanahan hasn’t been able to get the position settled. This has led to a Super Bowl loss and consecutive losses in the championship game.
1.) Bill Walsh
This is no surprise.
Walsh took over a dysfunctional franchise in 1979. His first two seasons resulted in sub-.500 records leading some to say he wasn’t the right man for the job.
All of that changed in 1981.
With Joe Montana now firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback the 49ers finished 13-3 and won the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Walsh would win the championship on two more occasions, following the 1984 and 1988 seasons.
Considered the inventor of the “West Coast offense”, Walsh changed the game. Instead of using the run to set up the pass, he used the pass to set up the run by using short passes to spread the defense out.
Walsh was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.