History says 49ers will go backward in 2012

History says 49ers will go backward in 2012
July 16, 2012, 3:33 pm
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We meant to do the work. We really did. Weve known about Bill James Plexiglass Principle in baseball for years, and we knew it probably worked in other sports as well.

But we didnt do the work. Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post did, and it says what we suspected. The 49ers have a far greater chance of falling backward than going forward in 2012.

And do not argue with me. The math says so. You want to start something, go argue with the number nine. Or your high school trig teacher. Were just bringing the information well, Fortenbaughs information, anyway.

Basically, it shows that over the past 10 years, teams that have gone from seven wins or fewer to 10 wins or over tend overwhelmingly to go backward in the next year, to nine wins or below. Its also called regression toward the mean, but why sound all fifth-period junior year math about it? The 49ers would be the 30th team in 11 years to make that leap, along with Detroit and Houston to make it a nice even 32.

And of the first 29, 26 went backwards in year three. Fortenbaughs proof follows:

Atlanta
5-11 (2003), 11-5 (2004), 8-8 (2005)
4-12 (2007), 11-5 (2008), 9-7 (2009)

Baltimore
7-9 (2002), 10-6 (2003), 9-7 (2004)
6-10 (2005), 13-3 (2006), 5-11 (2007)
5-11 (2007), 11-5 (2008), 9-7 (2009)

Carolina
7-9 (2002), 11-5 (2003), 7-9 (2004)
7-9 (2004), 11-5 (2005), 8-8 (2006)
7-9 (2007), 12-4 (2008), 8-8 (2009)

Chicago
7-9 (2009), 11-5 (2010), 8-8 (2011)

Cincinnati
4-11-1 (2008), 10-6 (2009), 4-12 (2010)

Cleveland
4-12 (2006), 10-6 (2007), 4-12 (2008)

Dallas
5-11 (2002), 10-6 (2003), 6-10 (2004)

Kansas City
7-9 (2004), 10-6 (2005), 9-7 (2006)
4-12 (2009), 10-6 (2010), 7-9 (2011)

Miami
1-15 (2007), 11-5 (2008), 7-9 (2009)

New Orleans
3-13 (2005), 10-6 (2006), 7-9 (2007)

New York Giants
6-10 (2004), 11-5 (2005), 8-8 (2006)

New York Jets
6-10 (2003), 10-6 (2004), 4-12 (2005)
4-12 (2005), 10-6 (2006), 4-12 (2007)

Philadelphia
6-10 (2005), 10-6 (2006), 8-8 (2007)
Saint Louis
7-9 (2002), 12-4 (2003), 8-8 (2004)

San Diego
4-12 (2003), 12-4 (2004), 9-7 (2005)

Seattle
7-9 (2002), 10-6 (2003), 9-7 (2004)

Tampa Bay
5-11 (2004), 11-5 (2005), 4-12 (2006)
3-13 (2009), 10-6 (2010), 4-12 (2011)
Washington
6-10 (2004), 10-6 (2005), 5-11 (2006)

Only three teams in that time have cheated the math. Pittsburgh went from six to 15 to 11 from 2003 to 2005, Chicago went from five to 11 to 13 wins from 2004 to 2006, and Green Bay went from six to 11 to 10 in 2008 to 2010.

So in fact, only one team went from a low base to be better in both their next two seasons those plucky 04 Bears.

What should this tell you about the 49ers? Well, that this could be a much tougher slog than you bandwagoneers think, that the wrong guys could get catastrophically injured this time, or that the turnover table could be reversed, or that more teams got better.

It doesnt mean that they stink, unless they go from 6 to 13 to 6 again. And it doesnt mean that Jim Harbaugh is some sort of fraud. It means that football success is more often about good fortune and planning than planning alone. There are very few teams that get to a high level and stay there. Its hard to do.

And it also doesnt mean that the NFC West is that much better, though it could. After all, the 49ers could have lost four more games and still won the division a year ago. They could follow the plexiglass theory to a T and still get to the postseason.

Were just telling you that the overwhelming evidence of the past tells us that the immediate future will be harder for the 49ers, and that you should prepare accordingly. After all, you can argue with plexiglass all you want, but youll look stupid doing it.