30 Jun Notable retirees from the past decade
Most 49ers fans were hit hard at the retirement of Joe Staley – everybody’s favourite player personality and host of the award winning (surely) Joe Show.
In fact over the past decade, 49ers fans have had to deal with several retirements, some of which came as a surprise, some were expected and some shocked us, no matter how sensible or honourable the reasons. Here are a few:
I’ll start in the backfield with Glen Coffee, drafted in the third round (74th overall) out of Alabama. His rookie season was spent backing up Frank Gore, along with Michael Robinson and Moran Norris. Playing in 14 games, he amassed 226 yards on 83 carries, and looked to be at the least a solid backup to Frank.In 2010, just before the preseason games started, he announced his retirement, stating that the NFL could be a very harmful environment for young players. He went on to join the army, and in 2017 tried unsuccessfully for a comeback.
Staying with the halfbacks, next up is Jarryd Hayne. The Hayne Plane landed in San Francisco in 2015, although he had wanted to trade Rugby in Australia for Football in the US four years earlier. Unfortunately he couldn’t qualify for a collegiate career due to insufficient grades. The hype was real, with Colin Kaepernick dubbing Hayne a phenomenal athlete – and Colin would know. In his preseason debut, his second touch saw him run impressively for 53 yards. Thanks in part to a fumbling issue on punt returns, Hayne only made it to October 31st before being relegated to the practice squad. Although he’d be signed to the full team again in December, he announced his retirement before the next season, stating new Head Coach Chip Kelly’s playbook as the main factor.
Ok, take a deep breath, next is Patrick Willis. One of the all time fan favourites, Patrick played with an instinctive, sometimes prescient aggression which is seldom seen in the NFL. During the 2014 season he struggled with a nagging toe injury, and on November 11th decided to have season ending surgery. Soon after he was placed on IR, and retired the following March after eight electric seasons. Pat was and is huge part of modern 49ers lore, and we are all proud to be fans.
Sometimes the hardest retirements to cope with are those where we look back and think “what if…”. For me, no retirement announcement typifies this more than ILB Chris Borland. Borland got his opportunity in his rookie season after Willis’s injury in week 7 opened the door, and he made a big impression, leading to a lot of us wondering if the 49ers had found a replacement for NaVorro Bowman. In just eight games he racked up 108 tackles, one sack (Manning) and two interceptions before being placed on IR with an ankle injury. The following March, Borland announced his retirement, citing concerns of head trauma.
Honourable mentions go to NaVorro Bowman, Garret Celek, Justin Smith and Brandon Lloyd.
Have I missed someone who deserves a mention? Whose retirement hit you hardest?