Here's a hypothetical for you.
NFL Team "A" has won more Super Bowls than 29 of its peers, and has the second-best winning percentage in the Super Bowl of any team with multiple appearances. NFL Team "B" hasn't won a title in nearly a quarter-century, and its last Super Bowl berth came down to a turnover on downs on fourth-and-goal. It's easy to say one has had it better than the other, right?
Well, "A" and "B" are the same team. The 49ers' five Super Bowl wins are tied for third-most in NFL history, and only the Baltimore Ravens have a better record in the game (2-0) than San Francisco. Of course, the Niners' last Super Bowl win came 25 years ago next Jan. 29, and the Ravens forced said turnover on downs to cut short San Francisco's "Quest for Six."
The latter was enough for the 49ers to crack the top 10 of Yahoo's annual "Most Tortured Fan Base" list. San Francisco didn't make the list last season, but Yahoo's Jay Busbee noted that "[the] higher the expectations, the richer the history, the more painful it is when a team trips over its own facemask," and that applies to the 49ers in his eyes.
"This is a team that could combine its win total of the last three years and still have trouble catching the Rams," Busbee wrote. "The fans that have made the pilgrimage down from San Francisco to watch this strange little team can at least take comfort that they once had a truly great dynasty … once. And it’s probably best if they don’t think about the fact that front-office spats cost the team a shot at another back in the Harbaugh/Kaepernick Super Bowl days."
Last season marked the 49ers' fifth straight season in which they missed the playoffs, and that drought now has outlasted the entirety of Jim Harbaugh's four-year tenure as head coach.
Since Steve Young lifted the monkey off his back in Super Bowl XXIX, San Francisco has alternated between close-but-not-quite -- they're 1-3 in subsequent NFC Championship games -- and far away.
A 5-0 finish to the 2017 season spearheaded by Garoppolo raised expectations for 2018, but Garoppolo's torn ACL all-but-ended the 49ers' hope of a turnaround.
The 49ers' heartbreak even pre-dates the post-dynasty years. In San Francisco's first 31 NFL seasons, the 49ers only made the playoffs four times. They lost back-to-back NFC Championship games in 1970 and 1971, enduring an eight-year playoff drought before winning the franchise's first Super Bowl. In all, the 49ers have missed the NFL playoffs more times (44) than they've made it (26). San Francisco also has nine NFC championship losses on its resumé and five of those were by seven points or fewer.
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While the 49ers had a height that, say, Carolina Panthers fans would take in a heartbeat, a generation -- or two -- of San Francisco fans weren't really around for the franchise's glory days. Twenty-five years without a title isn't the longest drought in the NFL, but it's up there at this point.
If the 49ers have their way, the Faithful won't make the list next season. Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch didn't exactly back away from their players referring to Super Bowl-or-bust expectations at the start of training camp.