One way San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Staley is enjoying retirement is by talking with some friends still in the league.
Staley discussed his 13-year career and sounded off on a variety of topics ranging from what the best number for an offensive lineman is to which teammates had a profound impact on his career.
Almost Retiring in 2017
This was likely the most interesting segment of the episode, in which Staley explained how he considered retiring after the 2016 season.
“We had just got done with a 2-14 year, it was miserable. Made a head coaching change, kind of gutted the whole franchise. I knew there was going to be a huge turnaround. Not even just from the coaching staff, but the roster. I was excited when Kyle [Shanahan] came in because I had heard so many good things about him while he was in Atlanta, they were coming off a Super Bowl appearance. I was excited about him coming in, I just didn’t know how long it was going to take. My body at that time, I was dealing with a lot of knee stuff and when you’re dealing with chronic knee pain, it just feels like it’s never going to end.”
Staley missed the Pro Bowl that season for the first time since 2010, as the 49ers floundered in Chip Kelly’s sole season as head coach. The Niners ranked 31st in the NFL in total offense that year, averaging just 308 yards per game.
However, Staley wanted to do his due diligence on new head coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch.
“‘Alright, is this going to be a huge rebuild?’ My body is really hurt and I still want to play football but I want to talk to these guys first and make a decision. That was kind of the extent of it, because once I met Kyle and John and once we sat down I was in on it. Then we went 0-9 and I was like, ‘What the **** am I doing here?”
The 49ers 2017 season wasn’t an immediate turnaround, but it did feature the rise of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who helped San Francisco end the season with a five-game win streak.
The shift in the year of 2017 meant Staley had more to give to the Niners, which eventually led to his second Super Bowl appearance this past February.
Getting insight into the relationships between NFL players is always rewarding for NFL fans, and Staley’s words on his favorite teammates were no different.
Part of the discussion included Staley talking about Frank Gore, who was an important veteran when the offensive tackle came into the league.
A guy like Frank Gore meant so much to me and my career because when I came in as a rookie, he was in year three and just came off 1600 yards rushing. Just an unbelievable dude, and I saw the way that he worked and the example that he set for the team. He’s the same exact person he was his rookie year as he is in year 15. The work ethic that he had, just watching him from a distance and the way he approached the game. He had a huge impact on my career and then we became a lot closer as friends once we played eight years together.
Gore ran for 1,000-plus yards seven times while Staley was a starting tackle, and also made four Pro Bowls with the Rockford, Michigan native as a key blocker.
Staley also commented on his favorite teammates on the offensive line, poking a little fun at current Niners tackle Mike McGlinchey.
“McGlinchy’s up there. He knows he’s not the top, which kills him, but you play so many years with so many players. In that o-line room you’ve got guys like Mike Iupati and Dan Kilgore. McGlinchy was like a younger brother, I don’t have any brothers, but he’s what I imagine a little brother was. The kind of guy that I would give **** to all the time, pick on all the time but one of those guys I could tell anything and we got to be really close.”
The Way Players View John Lynch
A piece of the podcast that might get lost in the multitude of Staley quotes was his statement on John Lynch.
Staley only played for Lynch in three seasons, but the tackle said that Lynch is often around the players and involved as much as he can, and his teams respect him because of his pedigree on top of his presence.
“He’s always in the locker room, in the meeting rooms. He speaks a lot and goes to team meetings. It’s one thing to have the general manager in there and he’s not a player, but because it’s John Lynch and he was a player at a really high level for a long time, guys really respect his opinion on how they approach the week and his input on the different things we have to focus on.”
Staley may have hung up his cleats, but his insight on the 49ers and the NFL will be invaluable for a long time.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.