Joe Staley has been retired for three years, and he’s still helping the 49ers. Earlier this week on KNBR, Staley delivered a message that will hopefully also be delivered by someone inside the Niners’ locker room.
“It has to get figured out in practice...One of the things that I loved about those 2012 teams and even that 2019 team that went to the Super Bowl, the work was done on the practice field and in the meeting room. I hope that, and I know, that they have the leaders on the team to figure it out, but this is the time right now. It’s not the time to show up on Sundays and say, ‘We’ll get it figured out on Sundays’ - no. You’ve got to get it figured out on Tuesday. Be honest and open with yourself about what you’re doing personally to right the ship. Are you holding up the standard that everybody else expects out of you, and are you gonna bring guys along? Right now, this is the point in the year when it can go a lot of different directions.”
From Joe’s lips to the 49ers’ ears. There’s no time like the present, for sure. But how exactly does that happen across an entire 53-man roster?
“The good teams that I’ve been a part of have had four or five guys that are real, real assholes. They’re holding everybody accountable, and they’re getting in people’s faces. Frank [Gore] was always that for us. Justin Smith was that for the defensive side of the ball...Even if we would win but the defense was giving up 28 points or 30 points, he was ripping these guys in meeting rooms, he’d be on the practice field. He talked to everybody...There was no one above the team.”
That begs the question: Who are those guys for this 49ers team?
“The most effective leaders that I’ve been around have also been the best players on the team. So you look at the guys that are the best players on the team, the guys that are paid the most money. I’ve always thought, too, that people that are paid a lot of money also have the burden of wearing that cross, being that leader. That comes with responsibility from the team not only making a commitment to you because of your play on the field, but the way you carry yourself and the standard that you hold in the locker room. The way you’re going to hold everybody else to the standard of what we believe is The 49er Way.
You look at the roster, Nick Bosa has to be that. Deebo Samuel has to be that. Quarterback is always going to be that guy that people are gonna look to. Juice has to be that. George [Kittle]. Trent Williams has to be that. Mike McGlinchey has been there for five years, he needs to do that. This was a game that they didn’t play very well on the edge at the tackle position, they have to hold themselves accountable and get it fixed. They have to be honest, too, with their own personal assessment.
Those are the best teams that I’ve been around, are the guys that can bounce back and not have a sensitive mindset and ego like, ‘Woe is me’ or whatever. Get pissed. Watch the film, be accountable, and move on on the practice field. That’s when you really see those teams come together.
They’ve done it last year. They were in a similar situation, so they have the guys there, but there’s got to be a sense of urgency. There’s got to be a sense of urgency this week against the Rams.”
Joe is right on the money. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one, to begin with - and that goes for both players and coaches. After that, it’s all about character.
The only thing I wonder about is whether the sense of urgency this year is dulled by the fact that the team was in almost this exact situation last year and still made the playoffs. Last year the team was struggling at 3-5, and suddenly Jimmy Garoppolo’s last ride with his guys was going down the toilet. That can definitely light a fire under your ass.
Will they still feel the same heat if they’re 3-5 again, or do they have to be 3-6? 3-7? We’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.
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