While nothing could be as bad as 2020, the 49ers’ injury woes from 2022 were still problematic, and this recently released stat illustrates why.
“At least things weren’t as bad as in 2020,” might be a statement most San Francisco 49ers fans would be comfortable making when it comes to thinking about team injuries.
Honestly, that injury-riddled season in which the Niners set league records for most players and player games lost over the course of a season probably made the following two years seem nowhere as bad.
Truth be told, though, San Francisco is still carrying that reputation of being an injury-prone team.
2020 was the statement year of that reputation, and 2022 proved to be problematic, too.
The reasons themselves are vague. However it came to be, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squads have dealt with more than their fair share of injuries. Perhaps the players who best fit in Shanahan’s offense and the corresponding defense happen to be injury prone. Maybe it’s the 49ers’ strength and conditioning that’s to blame.
Whatever it is, the Niners have an injury problem. And there are stats to prove it.
Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric shows 49ers haven’t solved much by way of avoiding injuries
Let’s rewind back to 2020 when San Francisco was the most injured team in the NFL by a massively wide margin.
Football Outsiders’ adjusted-games-lost metric, which accounts for far more than just whether or not a player missed a game because of an injury, pegged the 49ers that dreadful year with a league-worst AGL of 166.6, over 30 points above the next-worst team (New England Patriots).
The least-injured team that year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (AGL of 30.6) went on to win the Super Bowl. Keep that in mind.
A year later in 2021, the Niners’ injury issues seemed exceptionally better after such a dreadful season the year prior.
However, the AGL from Football Outsiders proved it wasn’t that much better, as San Francisco was at 119.5, fourth worst in the entire league. In spite of that, the 49ers still managed to make the NFC Championship game.
Yet it’s fair to wonder if the Niners could have made it to the Super Bowl, perhaps even winning it with a cleaner slate of health.
Likewise, San Francisco made it to the NFC Championship last season, too, but Football Outsiders’ data on injuries in 2022 doesn’t paint the 49ers’ injury woes much better, giving Shanahan’s squad an AGL mark of 93.9.
Ninth worst last year.
For what it’s worth, the woeful Denver Broncos were the most-injured team in 2022 with an AGL of 148.6.
Interestingly enough, the two teams that met in the Super Bowl last February, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, had AGLs of 42.4 and 48.1, respectively, which also ranked third and fourth best, respectively.
The lesson? To make it to and win a Super Bowl, it helps to be healthy. The 2020 Bucs proved that, and so did KC and Philly.
Do 49ers need to roster healthier players because of injury issues?
Shanahan has pointed out on multiple occasions that he doesn’t have a magic answer for avoiding injuries. The Niners even changed out their training staff after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s season-ending ACL tear back in 2018.
Speaking of Garoppolo, he will have finished his San Francisco tenure having suffered season-ending injuries in three of his six seasons there.
Losing quarterback Trey Lance to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 of the 2022 season didn’t help that metric much, and neither did the 49ers losing other players like running back Elijah Mitchell and defensive tackles, Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead, to elongated injuries throughout the season.
Other injuries, such as quarterback Brock Purdy’s UCL tear in the NFC Championship against the Eagles, put a cap on what was a frustrating season on the health front.
Perhaps that’ll push Shanahan and the Niners’ front office to rethink some of their player evaluations and/or their strength-and-conditioning programs.
Even though Shanahan doesn’t have that magic answer or fix, he has been something of a constant.
2022 just reinforced that.