As both a Portland Timbers and San Francisco 49ers fan it is impossible to not see some similarities between the two teams. The San Francisco 49ers were perennial losers from 2003 until 2011, when they finished with a 6-10 record. Many analysts were saying the 49ers were favored to win their division in 2011, instead they constantly switched between QBs, saw their offseasons acquisitions fail to make an impact, and they fired their coach mid-season (as well as multiple assistants).
The coach at the time, Mike Singletary, was incredibly set in his ways (although he did not have any offensive tactical knowledge), and forced his offensive coaches to call the same run-up-the-middle plays almost 75% of the time. Every team knew what they were going to do, and Singletary didn't care. He picked his players based on who he liked that week, and then blamed them for not properly executing the plays he wanted run. The GM at the time, Scot McCloughan was equally block headed. He refused to listen to his scouts, and went after people he had a gut feel about, or who could leap out of the building and beat a horse in a foot race.
Fans and media would sometimes put the blame on a scapegoat , our QB Alex Smith, for not being an effective passer and leader. However, how can a QB be a effective passer when he isn't allowed to pass the ball, and when the coaching staff is completely clueless when it comes to designing a compentent air attack? Is it Alex Smith (Kenny Cooper), or is it the coaching staff?
In the offseason following the dismal 2011 season the 49ers landed high profile Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh, and promoted Trent Baalke to GM. Harbaugh, an offensive guru, and Baalke, well respected around the league (see Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells), instantly worked well together. Harbaugh told Baalke what he wanted, and Baalke brought it to him. The 49ers made a few tweaks to their defense, and drafted a relatively unknown pass rusher in the first round. The next season that defense when on to be #1 in the league, and the relatively unknown pass rusher almost set a rookie records for sacks in a season. Oh, and the offense that was so inept the season before... They did well enough to finish the season 13-3, and the team was one muffed punt away from being in the Super Bowl.
So what does all of this mean? Everyone thought the 49ers were doomed - They didn't have the talent; The coaching staff was terrible; The front office didn't know what they were doing. However, in one offseason (during a lockout), the team was able to transform from a team falling into a pit of despair, to a team one play away from being in the Super Bowl, simply by hiring the right coach and GM.
Unfortunately, it took the team owners 9 years to get it right...