Change in secondary could hinder 49ers’ Super Bowl chances

The 49ers made an interesting decision in their divisional playoff matchup against the Green Bay Packers, and moving forward with that decision could wind up costing them a Super Bowl.

Despite rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown getting healthy enough to suit up for the postseason, it was veteran Logan Ryan lining up alongside Tashaun Gipson for San Francisco’s playoff opener.

Brown injured his knee in Week 16 against the Ravens and missed Weeks 17 and 18, but was back in practice to ramp up to the postseason. Still, he was one of two 49ers to not see the field against Green Bay in a game where a dynamic playmaker would have been helpful in the back end of the secondary.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s answer on why Ryan was in over Brown didn’t instill a ton of confidence that Brown would be an option for San Francisco in the postseason.

“We knew that we kind of decided that when Ji’Ayir had missed about four weeks,” Shanahan said in his postgame press conference. “I think it was two games, but he had been out four weeks. He’s been awesome in practice. I love Ji’Ayir. It has nothing to do with him. Just our experience of playoff games being around us. I think it’s a lot when you got a rookie who hasn’t played in a month, who is a very passionate, aggressive player. I just don’t want to put all that on him, to have him go out in the playoff game when he hasn’t been out there for four weeks. Especially when you have a veteran behind him who could just calm down a little bit. If things would’ve gone differently, we would’ve put Ji’Ayir in right away. But we don’t want to do that really to Ji’Ayir.”

Brown hadn’t played in four weeks. Now he hasn’t played in five, the 49ers are on a bigger stage, and Brown still doesn’t have postseason experience. It appears Ryan will be the team’s starting safety next to Gipson moving forward.

That could wind up hurting the 49ers.

Ryan, who will turn 33 next month, signed with San Francisco in early December after not being with a team at all in the 2023 season. Now he’s starting the biggest games of the year.

Against Green Bay he missed two tackles and allowed a touchdown on one of the two passes thrown his way. That TD came on a natural pick designed by Green Bay, but Ryan was a non-factor for the most part in a game where it might have been helpful to have Brown – an athletic, versatile safety with a penchant for being around the football and generating turnovers.

San Francisco liked Brown enough to trade up for him and make him the first safety off the bench when Talanoa Hufanga went down in Week 11 with a torn ACL. Now they need to trust him, because rolling with Ryan might wind up costing them the way it nearly cost them in their playoff opener.


Story originally appeared on Niners Wire