Joe Staley has Proven to be an Ageless Wonder for the 49ers
Jose Luis Sanchez III
For the second time in his 13 year career, offensive tackle Joe Staley will be playing in the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers. Staley, the longest tenured 49er, has had a roller coaster journey with the team since being drafted in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft.
The 49ers in the first four years of his career were irrelevant. They never sniffed any sort of playoff contention to ever garner any interest. It wasn't until Jim Harbaugh was hired that Staley would finally be apart of a successful team who would go on to appear in three straight NFC championship games.
One of those runs saw the team earn a trip to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens seven years ago.
Unfortunately, that loss in the Super Bowl would be the start of a decline for Staley and the 49ers. The very next season, the 49ers had their Super Bowl hopes axed by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC championship game. A game that fueled the downward spiral of the San Francisco 49ers.
The team never finished with a winning record following the 2013 season and were once again irrelevant. Things came full-circle for Joe Staley who started his career with a poor team. That was until 2017 when the 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan as head coach of the team.
The seeds would be planted to grow a forest that would sprout and take over the NFL in 2019. Now Staley is set to play in his second Super Bowl with the hopes of giving his team their sixth in franchise history.
Lost in all of the success for the 49ers this season is the performance of Staley, who has proven to be an ageless wonder.
2019 was a less than ideal season for him due to injuries that kept him out of nine games. At age 35, the longevity of his career seemed to be crashing down. After all, having a lasting career in the NFL is not a commonality for players. Whether it is the compounding injuries or the inability to consistently play at a high-level, long careers just don't happen often for the players.
That is why the NFL sometimes stands for "Not For Long". Nothing is ever guaranteed with a player's future and the likelihood of most reaching double digits in experience is slim.
However, for the ones that do make it with that slim chance are viewed as unique. That is what makes Staley's career so impressive. He has been able to play a relatively high-level every season. Age has not impacted much and neither has his injuries. Against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game, Staley didn't allow a single quarterback pressure and earned an 86.3 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Going up against Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, two of the best edge rushers in the league, is a handful for any offensive tackle. Yet, a 35-year old Joe Staley handled them without difficulty. Of course, Jimmy Garoppolo only needed to drop back eight times in the contest. However, Staley has been handling edge rushers swiftly this season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Staley has only allowed 2.8% of pressures on all of his snaps (including post-season, min. 250 snaps). That ranks as the second best rate of all offensive lineman.
Just when it looked like Staley would be entering a decline in his career, he bounces back from his injuries to do what he does best - keeping his quarterback clean. Something that he aims to do now that he is returning to the Super Bowl. Just glancing over his career, it would be quite fitting for him to earn his ring. Doing so will be no easy feat against the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, for this ageless wonder he is up for the task. If there is anything to be learned from the 2019 49ers, it is that they are hungry for a championship. With Staley as one of the leaders on the team, that hunger is sure to keep the 49ers ready for the moment when they step onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium.