Last Sunday, as the 49ers were trying to finish a furious comeback against an NFC East opponent, right tackle Mike McGlinchey had two of his worst snaps of the game.
First, McGlinchey was called for a holding penalty on defensive end Montez Sweat that negated a 22-yard completion. On the next play, McGlinchey was bull-rushed by Sweat into quarterback Nick Mullens, forcing a hurried fourth-down throw that was short of a first down and sealed the 23-15 loss.
That should sound familiar.
In Week 4, as the 49ers were trying to finish a furious comeback against an NFC East opponent, McGlinchey also saved his worst for last in a 25-20 loss.
On the 49ers’ penultimate offensive play, defensive end Brandon Graham blew by McGlinchey and drilled QB C.J. Beathard in mid-throw, forcing a fluttering incompletion. On the previous snap, defensive end Genard Avery had whizzed past McGlinchey and forced a sideline throwaway.
Those not-so-fantastic finishes are part of a season in which McGlinchey’s pass protection has prompted questions about the No. 9 pick in 2018 whose first two seasons didn’t include such big-moment breakdowns.
What’s happening? One potential issue: McGlinchey, who is listed at 310 pounds, arrived at training camp looking leaner. Cornerback Richard Sherman nicknamed him “The Big Slim,” a new moniker, and McGlinchey acknowledged he lost some weight, but said it was only about five pounds.
Is his weight loss tied to his uneven pass protection? After head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t dismiss that idea last Sunday, general manager John Lynch was more direct Thursday on KNBR.
“I do think Mike got a little light this offseason,” Lynch said. “I think he’s struggled with that. And that’s something we’ll probably address this offseason to give him some more anchor in there. I think that will help him moving forward.”
Lynch said McGlinchey has been “dominant” as a run blocker and, echoing Shanahan, maintained the 49ers have no regrets about selecting him with a top-10 pick, which suggests the 49ers will pick up McGlinchey’s fifth-year option this offseason.
To be clear, McGlinchey hasn’t been a turnstile. But his bad plays have looked ugly and have often come in crucial situations. Lynch likened it to a basketball player with a penchant for shooting the occasional air ball.
“His bad ones are whiffs and so it looks really bad,” Lynch said. “But he still does block the guy in front of him at a very high rate.”
Added Lynch: “I think what happens to the viewer at home, he’ll have some snaps that are bad. Obviously, the hold at the end (against Washington), those are tough. But I can tell you he does his job and does it well a large percentage of the time as well. Some of that’s optics. If you’re grading it on a consistency basis, he plays at a fairly high level.”
But the fact is McGlinchey’s goal entering his third season was to reach a Pro Bowl level and that hasn’t happened.
After his forgettable game-ending performance in Week 4 against the Eagles, McGlinchey responded with bounce-back effort the next week in a win against the Rams.
The pumped-up McGlinchey punctuated the game-sealing first down by giving center Hroniss Grasu a series of forceful head-butts. He later acknowledged the pregame criticism had something to do with his emotions.
Two months later, McGlinchey will be in a similar situation Sunday when the 49ers visit Dallas.
“It certainly did,” McGlinchey said in October of his pregame fuel. “It just gives you that little extra edge. And I appreciate the edge if that’s what you guys want to keep giving me. It’s awesome.
“It was a cool night. And I played up to the standard that I know that I can play. I got back on track. I eliminated the bad plays. That’s all that it was.”