The 49ers suffered several injuries in their week one match up facing the Vikings, two alone on the offensive line. Losing Mike Person and Joshua Garnett forced the team to use swing tackle Garry Gilliam at right tackle and rookie Mike McGlinchey at right guard. If any other players were injured, the only other option would have been to have a tight end on the line as they only dressed seven offensive linemen.
Having McGlinchey play at guard wasn't the plan but it was a necessity. Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained after the game:
“Not really. Especially in his first game, you don’t want to do that. Once it happened though you got to decide which way to go. We thought he’d be better in there at guard, just since he’s been practicing the last month, where Gilliam just got in here the last week. My hat’s off to him; he didn’t hesitate. He was excited about the challenge and he went in there and did his best. I was definitely happy that he was willing to do that. “
McGlinchey was a little surprised to be asked to play guard but was obviously willing:
“I was a little shocked to hear that news, but that’s what our team needed today. We had some injuries and guys went down, it was required of me to play guard for us, and that’s what I tried to do. I tried to it to the best of my ability. I think I should have done it a little better than did it, but that’s how it shakes out sometimes and hopefully we’ll get it right and get things going for Detroit.”
Offensive line John Benton was the one who came to McGlinchey asking if he would like to play guard. With Gilliam missing quite a bit of practice time from being in the concussion protocol, it was better to leave him where he is more comfortable.
“When Josh [Garnett] went down, Gary came in, and I had a conversation with Coach Benton and he said, ‘McGlinch, you want to play right guard?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ So, I did it. That’s about all the conversation was, and I went in and played. I told Weston that you’re going to have to help me out a little bit, and he did, so we made it work today.”
How did McGlinchey play at guard? According to PFF analyst Jeff Deeney, not well — but neither did anyone else on the offensive line. McGlinchey finished with a 55.4 overall grade, allowing two hits and a hurry, all at RG. He also allowed a sack at RT and another hit at RG that got wiped out by penalties, which hurts the grade but not the pressures allowed stats.
On Monday following the postgame film analysis, Kyle Shanahan came away impressed with McGlinchey’s performance.
“I was so impressed with McGlinchey. By no means did he play perfect, but we were in a situation that I haven’t been in too much in my career. He was in a situation that he has never been in in his career, going back to Pop Warner or whatever league he played in when he was younger. But, losing all of those guys and having to throw someone in at guard, it was just neat to see how he reacted to it on the sideline. It was his first NFL game, he’s never played guard and you could see that there was nothing about him that was scared to go try it. He knew he had to do it and he didn’t’ flinch at all. He went in there, competed, did the best he could and did a pretty good job. I know there were a couple of mistakes, as expected, but it was not too big for him. Him going there, he did give us a chance to have a chance to come back and win that game.”
What did McGlinchey take away from his first NFL game experience? There was some frustration and obviously elements to work on but, like George Kittle mentioned after the game, they see the potential of the offense and just need to put all of the pieces together.
“The thing that we take away from it is that we had opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and we’re a much more talented and capable team than what we showed today, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Those opportunities are going to continue to present themselves throughout the season, and we’re going to continue to get better and continue to capitalize those, but today it wasn’t enough. Today we had four shots in the red zone and only came away with field goals every time, and it’s kind of tough.”