San Francisco tight end Eric Johnson was trying to describe what it was like going through a terrible season.
"It’s pretty excruciating," Johnson said.
Johnson was talking about the 49ers, but he might as well have been speaking about the entire NFC West.
The Cardinals, at 4-8, have been able to still talk about the playoffs — and not be laughed out of the conversation — because of football’s worst division. Seattle and St. Louis are both a disappointing 6-6.
"Our division could be won at 8-8," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "It could be even less than that."
The ugliness of the 49ers’ season doesn’t help the West’s reputation. San Francisco is 1-11 and heading quickly to the No. 1 pick in the draft.
"I’m holding up OK, but it has been freaking unbelievable here," Erickson said. "You have nightmares about something like this."
Said Johnson, "Everyone in this organization feels beat down by all the losses. It takes a toll on you."
At least the 49ers were predicted to have a rough season. Predictions for Seattle by some included a trip to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks looked like they would run away with the division — at least until the games started.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has underachieved and the defense, ripped up by injuries, has struggled. Coach Mike Holmgren was supposed to have the Seahawks further along in his sixth season. Seattle’s horrible loss Monday night — blowing a 10-point lead at home to Dallas in the final two minutes — is the only real reason the Cardinals still have a shot at the division title.
Now Holmgren is 47-47 in Seattle, including two playoff losses, and the Seahawks are closer to a coaching change than a Super Bowl.
"I’ve been at it awhile now so that it’s starting to . . . it’s like taking too many body blows," Holmgren said. "Boom, boom. Pretty soon you know you can’t take many anymore."
The Rams might be feeling the best about themselves. They are 5-0 in the division, which is great when it comes to tiebreakers and not so great when computing the quality of their wins.
Quarterback Marc Bulger will miss a couple of games with a shoulder injury, and the Rams’ defense has struggled to stop anyone that isn’t the hapless 49ers.
"I’m just excited about where this team is going," coach Mike Martz said after the Rams beat San Francisco last week. "What it does is get you excited about the rest of the season."
He might be the only one.