SANTA CLARA — The 2005 San Francisco 49ers were to offensive football what "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is to high culture.
That year, the Niners ranked last in the NFL in total offense (224.2 yards per game), passing offense (118.6) and passer rating (53.6), and were 30th out of 32 teams in scoring (239 points). The total yardage figure is the worst among all NFL teams in the past 10 years. The passing yardage is worst in the past 20 years. It was an offense that dreamed of mediocrity.
"It was a brutal time because Pittsburgh is known for defense, Chicago is known for defense and that city responds to that, and this city responds to offense," Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said of San Francisco. "They appreciate defense, but they want the ball flying. They want to see the scores and ... they want to see the quarterbacks. I think that 2005 was, you know, kind of as low as you can go."
And yes, heads rolled. Of San Francisco's 11 primary starters on offense that year, two (running back Kevan Barlow and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd) were with different teams the following season, and three (fullback Fred Beasley, receiver Johnnie Morton and center Jeremy Newberry) were out of football altogether.
The man who presided over the grisly scene also wound up elsewhere in 2006. But offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy wasn't fired or demoted. He was hired away as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
The move proved to be a stroke of genius. The Packers have made the playoffs five times in McCarthy's seven seasons, with an overall winning percentage of .661. They won the Super Bowl after the 2010 season, and had the NFL's best regular-season record (15-1) in 2011.
The Packers are again a dangerous group as they head to Candlestick Park for Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game against the 49ers.
McCarthy used his year in San Francisco as a springboard to success, and he'd like nothing more than to haunt the Niners with that history.
"The opportunity to work in San Francisco was really a great one for me personally, on a number of different fronts," he said by phone this week.
"As a young coach, when I was at the University of Pittsburgh with Paul Hackett, we always studied the 49ers film. It was something that we were always trying to emulate.
"And then go to Kansas City, the six years that I was in Kansas City, all three quarterbacks (Joe Montana, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac) had come from San Francisco, so you had a lot of time you spent being in touch with the way they did things out there, particularly on offense. And then finally having the opportunity to go out there and work, it was definitely a year that I enjoyed."
As you might guess, McCarthy's hiring was greeted with shock, skepticism and no small degree of outrage in Green Bay in January of 2006. Back in San Francisco, though, the 49ers understood.
Only three offensive players from that '05 team remain with the 49ers today: quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore, both rookies in 2005, and long snapper Brian Jennings, who also has played tight end. All three said they were unsurprised when Green Bay opted for McCarthy.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here