Every player is affected differently after each season. We’re seeing that this offseason with the San Francisco 49ers, who have a young core that is working their tails off to get better. Then there are the veterans that are battled injuries all offseason. In the case of Joe Staley, NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco pointed out that 2019 “took a toll on a lot of people, and he’s a veteran,” when talking about the 49ers left tackle and face of the franchise.
Maiocco continued with a conversation with colleague Laura Britt, saying, “I’m going to go 50/50” when asked about the chance Staley plays in 2020. Matt said that Staley had been going to the 49ers facility every day after the Super Bowl loss in attempts to get back to full strength. As we know, San Francisco closed its facilities on March 14.
The last memory we have about Staley is a melancholy tone and expression that we likely won’t see again from him:
Joe Staley: Put yourself in my shoes for a second. It’s tough. pic.twitter.com/W623UdkPyi— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) February 3, 2020
You’re supposed to remove all emotion in media, but after watching that, it’s an impossible ask not to feel anything.
Maiocco continued saying the 49ers have approached this offseason as if Staley will not play in 2020, which explains why they’ve met with three potential first-round offensive tackles:
“Even if he does, he’s not going to be around too much longer, locking down the left side of that offensive line, so the 49ers really have to start taking some steps in order to make sure that once he leaves.”
Some of the greatest general managers in history, such as Bill Walsh and Ozzie Newsome, were always a year ahead when it came to replacing positions. If the 49ers feel there is any doubt that Staley will not return, the wise thing to do would be to vet as many tackles in the draft to find a player that can give you anything close to what Staley did in 2019. That should be their approach because you’re not getting a left tackle for 13 years that played at Staley’s level. If you’re thinking like that, get those thoughts out of your head now.
The human element could factor into Staley’s decision as well. Perhaps being home during these quarantine times with his family could steer him in the direction of hanging it up. If Staley does decide to retire, you can guarantee we’ll dedicate that whole week, at least, to the 49ers legend.