The folks at Football Outsiders recently together a top ten list looking at the most disappointing teams of the last 25 years. The list looked at specific teams that had high expectations heading into the given season but either came in wiht a middling return or just completely bombed. The Bay Area is lucky enough to not only have two teams on the list, but those teams are in spots one and three. Way to go Bay Area football!
The 2003 Oakland Raiders topped this list thanks to getting really old, really quick:
Individual players get old, but it's unusual to see an entire team grow old overnight. Then again, most teams don't open the season with a 38-year-old quarterback, receivers who are 37 and 41, a trio of over-30 running backs and an assortment of defenders pushing 40. The Raiders clawed their way to a 2-2 start, but they looked slow and brittle, and the precision in their offense was gone.
The 2003 Raiders were coming off a run to the Super Bowl in 2002. You could say their demolition at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the beginning of the end for the Raiders. After losing that Super Bowl the Raiders won no more than five games in a season prior to this past year's 8-8 season.
The 1999 San Francisco 49ers finished third on the list, although injury was the the real bugaboo for them. The 1998 49ers had managed to finally get past the Green Bay Packers, which had developed into their primary hurdle after the Dallas Cowboys. However, much like the Super Bowl XXXVII marked the beginning of the Raiders downward slide, the 49ers loss to Atlanta after beating Green Bay began their slide. In that game, Garrison Hearst broke his ankle and was lost for the next two seasons. Charlie Garner was a capable replacement but Hearst was the first of many big injuries:
Week 3 of the 1999 season. It's not always possible to pinpoint the exact moment when a dynasty comes to an end, but in the case of the 49ers, it is simple. When a blitzing Aeneas Williams slammed Steve Young into the turf, it ended the longest sustained period of team excellence in modern NFL history ....
[I]njuries forced starters Darnell Walker and Ramos McDonald in and out of the lineup; the pass rush dried up; and the pass defense DVOA plummeted to 37 percent, worse even than that of the first-year Browns.
The upside to that performance saw the 49ers get a chance to begin developing Jeff Garcia. While Garcia would lead the 49ers back to the playoffs, he was the start of the 49ers own downward slide at the QB position. The next decade would involve plenty of comparisons of Garcia and future QBs to Joe Montana and Steve Young.