How Important is the Veteran Leadership in Building the 49ers?


As players enter the league, there is more to than just learning different blocking techniques and pass coverages. In a lot of cases these players are handing a lot of money and are expected to act differently than they may have in college.

How are new players going to respond to adversity, and are they going to be able to keep their egos in check? That’s where the veterans come in, the “been-there, done-that” guys. The ones new players should be looking up to and asking for advice.

This year is even new for Jimmy Garoppolo. Being a member of the New England Patriots has not brought Garoppolo a lot of adversity. However, now he is the starting quarterback; how is he going to handle his first loss, if he loses two in a row, or God forbid over half the season.

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about the “Budding Bromance” that has been developing between 49ers’ offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Staley, the 11-year veteran, wasted no time in taking the rookie McGlinchey under his wing and showing him exactly what it is like to be a NFL player.

In an article written by Matt Barrows about the growing harmony on the offensive line, he quoted Kyle Shanahan saying, “They’re funny. It’s like two, giant 12-year-olds hanging out together." Shanahan went on further to say, "… Joe is obviously the veteran, Mike is the new rookie and we’ve got a lot of guys in between those guys who fall right in with the group, too. I think we have a very close room in there."

Being the ninth-overall pick in the draft is a lot to live up to, having to be a year-one starter at right tackle only adds more fuel onto an already hot flame. But who better to cool off that flame than the veteran left tackle Staley.

It can be easy for rookie players to get lost entering the NFL, especially after they’re thrown a butt load of cash and responsibility they may have never had before. I know Josh Gordon was finally reinstated last season and at least at this point appears to have his head on straight, but where would he be in his career if someone could have taken the time and straighten him out in the beginning.

According to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, the 49ers last season had the ninth-youngest team (average age 26.41) in the NFL and the third youngest (average age 24.91) starting defense, which is why bringing in seven-year veteran Richard Sherman was a huge addition to a very young group.

During his rookie season last year Ahkello Witherspoon had a slow start and was even a healthy scratch in the beginning, but started flashing after he received the starting role in late October. But as good as he was playing; PFF ranked him the best 49ers player during their Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles he’s still a young, raw rookie with plenty to learn from the veteran Sherman.

49ers’ team reporter Keiana Martin quoted Witherspoon in her article,

“All I wanted throughout college was to play across from Sherman. He was an idol of mine,” Witherspoon said. “Just to have that opportunity to learn from him and pick his brain, that’s all I craved. In terms of playing across from him, I just wanted it so that I could understand what he knows. (I wanted to) learn the game from how he sees it to build on (my) athleticism and what I already bring to the game.”

The hype train is in full motion for the 49ers in 2018 and this team has many veterans that have had the highest of highs, and lowest of lows; and it will be up to the veterans to not only help the young players keep their head on straight and focused when they are in the highest of highs. But to also help them stay focused and never give up if they experience the lowest of lows.

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