With a very young team, veteran leadership is key. After a tough first half of the season San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan chose three veteran players to speak in front of the team during their meetings the night before the game. Kyle Juszczyk, Elvis Dumervil and Joe Staley were the players he chose.
Staley, who returned following a week off after fracturing his orbital bone facing the Eagles is not known for being vocal. In fact he doesn't like speaking in front of people because it reminds him of high school speech class. He admits he gets nervous and can’t remember what to say. Staley did, however, choose to speak from the heart.
When Staley was asked if there is any loss of passion or conviction in the locker room being 0-9 he responded with some of what he told the team:
I've been part of a lot of wins here with this franchise over the 11 years I've been here. This win is like, it felt just as good as winning the NFC championship. It was unbelievable because just how close this team is. From the outside looking in with an 0-9 record coming in to today’s game, you know it’s a young team, everybody doesn't see what we see in the locker room.
We understand, I understand, how close we are. No one has wavered no one's ever pointed fingers. We've all just kind of buckled down and that’s a tribute to Kyle and the leadership group that he brought in with the front office and his coaching staff and also the veteran players. It’s keeping the guys and everybody locked in because we're not going to win games and we’re not going to turn things around by pointing fingers. I think people are really bought in and guys really believe. I’m really excited to see where we go from here, get back to work after this bye week because I think we really got something special here. I know our record doesn’t say it but I'm really excited about it.
I’m not sure I would go as far as comparing it winning the NFC Championship game but it was a very elated locker room after the win. During Harbaugh’s last season when the team’s record was 8-8 the mood in the locker room was much darker than it is now at 1-9. It may be because the expectations were so high after three straight visits to the NFC Championship game but regardless, the mood is better now. The last two seasons under Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula left the locker room dismal at best.
Staley is a good barometer of the locker room and he’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time. The locker room being vested in the new regime goes a long way for the left tackle as does being mentally challenged by his head coach which he’s mentioned on several occasions. It may be a tough few seasons rebuilding the franchise but the future according to Staley sounds promising.