4 decisions that backfired on SF 49ers in 2020
By Peter Panacy
No. 2: SF 49ers not stockpiling enough depth at center
True, the Niners were initially anticipating getting veteran center Weston Richburg back from his 2019 knee injury at some point during the season. And they had a decent backup, Ben Garland, who could at least fill the void.
In training camp, though, it was becoming clearer Richburg wasn’t going to return anytime soon, leaving a dramatic dropoff from Garland in terms of the team’s depth.
And when Garland went down with a season-ending calf injury after five games played, the lack of depth at center became a massive problem. San Francisco featured a revolving door of centers, which included a camp addition, Hroniss Grasu, and the intended starting right guard, Daniel Brunskill, playing out of position.
Neither solution panned out particularly well, although it’s crazy to think the SF 49ers were regularly down to their third- and fourth-string centers at that point.
Still, the Niners could have done better to prepare and anticipate the realization Richburg was going to be out for longer than expected. Especially considering how important the position is to Kyle Shanahan’s system. With Richburg out, the de facto starter was Garland, yet assuming a practice squad-type player like Grasu could fill the void if needed was a clear mistake.
And it’s one of the key reasons why interior offensive line help will be needed this offseason.