Should the 49ers Keep Daniel Brunskill as the Starter Indefinitely?
Jose Luis Sanchez III
One of the best offseason additions the San Francisco 49ers made was bringing in Daniel Brunskill.
The impact that he has made filling in for Mike McGlinchey and now Joe Staley is a major factor for the solidification of the offensive line. San Francisco could have easily derailed as an offense if they had a lousy offensive tackle. Brunskill has continued to dominate in every game, whether it is on the left side or right.
However, Staley could be in line to be fully cleared for Sunday’s matchup with the Saints. It begs the question to ask: Should the 49ers keep Brunskill at left tackle indefinitely?
It would not be overly shocking if Kyle Shanahan decided to continue to ride the hot hand. Brunskill has not given Shanahan any reason to doubt him. The fact that Brunskill was able to swing over at left tackle so adeptly is massively impressive. No matter what situation he is being put in, whether it is in the middle of a game or switching sides, he still continues to perform at a high-level.
Does Shanahan really want to disrupt that?
The last time Joe Staley was out on the field in week 10, he had a hopeless game against the Seahawks. Rust definitely played a factor in his performance, but Staley has hardly played this season. He hasn't managed to string more than a couple of games together before getting injured. It might even be irresponsible to insert Staley back into the starting lineup because of the risk for Jimmy Garoppolo. That is how poor he was against Seattle. Garoppolo was getting hammered on almost every drop back in that game, which factored into there first loss of the season.
By giving Staley his starting spot back, the 49ers could be risking another poor pass protecting game from him that could cost them to drop a game. This is a decision that truly is a tough one. If Brunskill continues to start and Staley is cleared, then that is essentially the end of the Joe Staley era. At 36-years old and appearing injury prone, it might even be the ideal route to take.
However, despite how impressive Brunskill has performed, Shanahan must not leave him as the starter indefinitely. Staley is a leader on this team and the longest tenured 49er. As much as Brunskill has proven he can win the job, Staley hasn't proven he has lost it. Injuries have just derailed his season, which makes it impossible for him to hit his stride. With the final four-game stretch starting Sunday, Staley has a chance to get his legs under him and settle in.
That is crucial for him to be ready for the playoffs, which is where his presence is felt strongest. That experience that Staley carries with him could prove useful in a playoff game. It is a whole different world when it comes to a playoff game. That could be where Brunskill unravels and at least with Staley they can trust that he'll be headstrong.
Regardless, it would be tough to envision Shanahan putting all his chips on Brunskill. Considering how cautious he is he will stick Staley back into his starting role at left tackle. If that so happens to be this Sunday, he will be in for another difficult "welcome back" test with Cam Jordan and crew awaiting the 49ers.