The Niners were without Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford and Raheem Mostert — among others — for extended periods of the schedule.
San Francisco stumbled to a 6-10 record, finishing in the basement of the NFC West. Football Outsiders did a great job of breaking down the injuries for every NFL team last season. They used a formula to look at adjusted games lost to injuries and factored in COVID-19 related absences. Football Outsiders used games missed by specific players as well as adjusted rates for when players were listed on the injury report and still suited up.
The data shows the 49ers were far-and-away the leaders when it comes to adjusted games lost. San Francisco’s players missed 161.6 games to injuries, plus five more related to COVID-19. Here are the five teams with the highest adjust games lost for the 2020 campaign:
Unsurprisingly, none of the five teams made it to the playoffs. The Niners’ total adjusted games lost is the second-most over the past 20 NFL seasons. Only the 2016 Chicago Bears had a higher total than San Francisco, with 171.6. The Bears went 3-13 that season.
Scott Spratt of Football Outsiders points out that this has been a troubling trend for the 49ers.
But the 49ers have finished in the bottom 12 for eight straight seasons—or, twice as long as Kyle Shanahan has been head coach. Perhaps they need a better medical staff? Washington (seven years) is the only other team with a bottom-12 streak longer than the Eagles’ current streak of three years.
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch changed the medical staff following the 2018 season, letting go head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson. He was replaced by Dustin Little, while Ben Peterson is currently the head of player health and performance.
Shanahan said the team would focus on bringing players who have a history of durability. Veteran center Alex Mack only missed two games while playing for the Atlanta Falcons in 2020, just the second time in his 12-year career that he didn’t play in all 16 games. Pass-rusher Samson Ebukam hasn’t missed a game over his four NFL seasons.
When fully healthy, the Niners have one of the best rosters in the league. If San Francisco wants to be back in a position to contend, it will need its star players to stay on the field. That’s especially true at quarterback. Garoppolo has missed 23 starts over the past three seasons, and the team’s record without him in the lineup is 6-17.
Lynch said the 49ers would look to bring in a veteran backup for Jimmy G, but they haven’t signed one yet. Josh Rosen and Josh Johnson are the other two QBs on the roster behind Garoppolo.