The 49ers were mired in a losing streak to open the season, and five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley was not feeling great or playing well.
And for the first time in his 11-year NFL career, Staley could envision the end of his career rapidly approaching.
Staley described on The 49ers Insider Podcast how a long sit-down conversation with coach Kyle Shanahan got him refocused to not only finish the season but energized for future seasons with the organization.
“I was just kind of in the doldrums, and my mood was not good,” Staley said. “I wasn’t coming to work with the same kind of enthusiasm that I usually come in with. I actually sought out Kyle and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to sit down and have a conversation. I have to talk to you. I just need to get out of my own head right now.’ ”
Staley’s knee was acting up and he said he felt like he was in a professional rut. He was learning a new scheme under the franchise’s fourth head coach in four seasons. The team was rebuilding. He turned 33 in August.
“Is this going to be my last season? You kind of get weighed down by that stuff,” Staley said. “You have a career and you think about how you want it to end. It was the first time I was thinking about that stuff.”
Staley credits his conversation with Shanahan for assisting him in turning around his attitude.
“It was beneficial for me and that speaks to the kind of person he is -- to be about to sit down with a guy that’s older and dealing with stuff as a first-time head coach and be able to really sit down and get me refocused,” Staley said. “It was a big help to me this year.”
It also did not hurt that the 49ers shortly thereafter acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots and concluded the season on a five-game win streak.
Whereas earlier in the season, Staley thought this could be the final season of his career, he recently told his wife, “Hey, I’m going to be a football player for a little bit longer.”
He said of his early season thoughts of retirement, “I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment. I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that.”
Staley said he felt he finished the season playing some of his best football. He feels energized by the direction of the organization under Shanahan, general manager John Lynch and the new quarterback.
“He’s got everything you want,” Staley said of Garoppolo. “We’re excited about him. (But) collectively, it’s everything.
"Obviously, we’re excited about the quarterback and what he’s brought to the team and the franchise. His play has elevated everybody around him. Also, too, with the head coach and the front office, you see the guys they’re bringing it. You know they get it. All coupled together, it’s fun. I wish I were a lot younger.”