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Patrick Willis says he would have retired if the Niners and Harbaugh’s relationship didn’t fall apart

This was easily our favorite interview of the year. Patrick Willis sat down with us to talk about everything from Arik Armstead and the current defense to his favorite Justin Smith story.

New York Jets v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Today is the best episode we’ve done to date. Akash and I spoke about Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury and whether Brock Purdy could weather the storm. We also touched on the Dolphins' game as well as gave a prediction about the Bucs’ game.

Willis started by talking about thewhinkersmind.com, which is his non-profit organization. He also spoke about Universe52.com, so please check those out and support Patrick.

But Patrick Willis joined the show at around the 18-minute mark. You can watch the video here:

Here are some of the topics and timestamps:

-What he knows about QB Josh Johnson (2:10)

- Is it annoying for you and Navorro Bowman to be continuously compared to Fred Warner/Dre Greenlaw (3:49)

- Does a player returning from injury give you a jolt in the locker room (7:58)

- How do you get over losing a teammate to injury emotionally in-game? (9:00)

-Are you watching as a 49er fan or critiquing in ‘former player mode,’ aka an analyst? (11:00)

-What’s the biggest weakness on the defense? (12:17)

- Showing love to Arik Armstead (15:00)

- Aldon or Bosa? (16:32)

- Would you have retired if Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers relationship didn’t fall through (19:21)

- What’s one thing you’ve done since retiring that’s been the closest thing to an adrenaline rush since you played? (22:00)

- Best Harbaugh/Justin Smith story (32:38)


Willis was incredible, but that’s to be expected. He is a big, big Arik Armstead fan:

“Having Armstead come back on Sunday and to play that middle, to play that 3 (technique), to play that interior, you have to respect that size, that he’s gonna make plays. So that leaves Bosa.

Instead of sliding the line, you put Armstead away from him, and now you’re able to get those matchups that you want. When Armstead’s not in there, you can slide the line Bosa’s way. He’ll still make plays, but it’ll be a long day for him.”

If you recall Jimmie Ward’s interception, that’s exactly what happened. Armstead was left 1-on-1. He won his matchup, pushed the pocket, and caused a turnover.

Here’s Willis on Armstead’s lack of attention from the media and his selflessness to his old teammates:

“I feel like he doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for what he’s able to bring to the defensive line. I believe in the defensive line. For as much as I want to take credit for the linebacker that I was, I was grateful to have a defensive front in Justin, Ray, and Isaac, because we worked well together. Those guys were very unselfish guys.”


Would you have retired if Harbaugh and the Niners' relationship didn’t fall apart?

“You know, yeah. Being honest. The time was then. I had felt it. It was one of those things where, as a rookie, I remember telling myself, ‘when the time comes, I know I’ve given the team, the organization, and myself; I didn’t want to be that guy just moping around or pushed around or get sent off.’

I remember as a rookie, the days were long. The season was long. My defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky, would say, ‘all right, y’all better take advantage of the days. Get it done now because it’ll be over just like that.’

He’d call the old heads over or go around asking the old heads, and they’d agree. Then, when that day came, I knew that feeling in my gut, my heart, and my mind. They just weren’t aligned anymore. And without that, I know I’m not the person or athlete I knew I could be. That’s when I told myself it was time.

Steve Jobs said, ‘those who can connect the dots can connect the dots in the future.’ I remember seeing how my dots were connected and seeing what was going on in the organization.

And just understanding that Navorro was the next protege in line. I felt like to take that defense and the team onto wherever it was going to go. But for me, the sun was setting for me and rising on another.”

We gave Willis the floor, and he did not disappoint. You can listen to the interview in its entirety below.