From the 2011 season through 2018, Joe Staley missed just four of 128 49ers games. He not only was a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle (selected six times), he was a rock of consistency. When the Niners played, Staley played.
Then came 2019 and two injuries that forced Staley to the sidelines. He played just seven regular-season games.
Yet Staley came back strong for the postseason, starting all three games and playing almost every snap as the Niners beat the Vikings and Packers and then lost to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Now, at 35, Staley could take a final bow and call it a career. The team’s first-round draft pick from Central Michigan, selected in 2007, has seen a lot of ups and downs with the franchise – he’s the lone player remaining from the Super Bowl team of the 2012 season. Leaving after going to the Super Bowl a second time would be a fine exit strategy.
Yet 49ers general manager John Lynch doesn’t believe Staley is going anywhere.
“I don’t think you know with certainty with any player, but all indications (are) Joe is really happy being a 49er,” Lynch told reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “He’s healthy and that’s all good. I think he performed at a really high level when healthy this year. We love having Joe around and hopefully we can keep doing this song and dance for years to come.
“But we’ll see what’s on Joe’s mind, but right now I think he’s in a good place.”
Staley played just over 40 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in the regular season, yet was effective when he did suit up. Staley allowed just seven pressures in 240 pass-blocking snaps. That 2.9 pressure rate was the third-best among NFL offensive tackles in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. When Staley was injured, his backup, Justin Skule, allowed a 9.2 percent pressure rate, one of the worst in the NFL.
Staley has been vocal about feeling re-energized since the tandem of head coach Kyle Shanahan and Lynch took over the team. And, after all those years, enjoyed the ride to another Super Bowl in 2019. With a great group of talent around him, it seems likely Staley wants to taste winning again in 2020, the final year of his contract, when he’s due to make $11.3 million.