No, you can’t use the quarterbacks.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have learned the hard way just how imperative it is to have your starting quarterback under center during his tenure. As a result, the Niners’ offense has lost some key pieces during the past couple of seasons, from starting running backs to receivers to offensive tackles.
Despite that, they’ve still managed to move the ball, albeit inconsistently. In 2019, without Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley, San Francisco continued to win games. Why? Because Jimmy Garoppolo was on the field.
Of course, the 49ers hope the days of losing multiple key players are long gone, but this offseason has proven that the injury bug remains an issue. The team will return a slew of players from injury, and there was a lot of talent sidelined last year.
There were stretches at a time where Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Trent Williams were all sidelined. Every team in the NFL goes through injuries, but no team has been consistently hit as the Niners have.
Which begs the question, which 49er on offense should be pegged “Mr. Irreplaceable” in 2021? Whether the quarterback is Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance, QB is the most important position in all sports, so you don’t get to pick either one of them.
Mostert, Deebo, Kittle, Williams, Brandon Aiyuk, Kyle Juszczyk. Essentially, all of the skill guys and one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. That’s how talented this offense is. But, who could the 49ers least afford to lose?
We don’t have to worry about Ja’Mycal Hasty or Jerrick McKinnon leading the charge if Mostert goes down as San Francisco invested in two talented running backs during the draft.
The offense wasn’t the same when one of Aiyuk, Kittle, or Samuel went down, but they weren’t exactly hamstrung, either. Kittle makes the biggest difference as the run game took a nosedive when he was out. I’d imagine Kittle will win running away, but that’s not who I’m picking.
It has to be Williams. Without Kittle, you still have several offensive weapons. But, without Williams, you lose one of the best luxuries in the NFL. Williams, like Nick Bosa, makes everyone around him better, but he also makes everyone’s job easier.
You don’t have to worry about sliding your protection his way or needing a running back or a tight end to chip a blocker. You know, if you run the ball to the left, you’re getting a minimum of four yards.
It’s one thing not to have to worry about sliding your protections his way; it’s a whole other thing to know Williams won’t get beaten in pass protection. Despite going against top rushers, Williams was superb last season, minus two games that were primarily due to miscommunication.
If Williams goes down, you have to shuffle around a few names, and you lose too much experience. So everyone is affected negatively, which is why he’s my selection.