Patrick Willis officially retired today after eight fantastic seasons in the NFL. He leaves behind an amazing legacy as one of the most talented and physically gifted linebackers to ever play the game.

In his short career, he went to seven pro bowls and had 950 combined tackles, eight interceptions and 20.5 sacks. Between his ability to stop the run and keep up with tight ends on pass coverage, he is simply one of the best to ever play the game: and in my opinion, his early retirement will be talked about in the same vein as Barry Sanders.

Yet with this announcement, there leaves a gaping hole in the 49ers linebacking core, defense and locker room: his leadership qualities has been praised as much as his natural talent. And it is something that it us unlikely to be filled right away – Chris Borland is solid but nowhere near close to Willis.

With this said, looking from the outside in, it appears that the organization is in trouble. Since the departure of Jim Harbaugh, the team that made it to three NFC Championships is slowly breaking apart.

A number of players have been rumored to leave or have already departed from the once hailed 49ers. The biggest mystery at the moment is Justin Smith: will he retire or remain with the team? On top of this, Frank Gore, the pillar of their offense for years, signed with the Colts, Michael Crabtree unexpectedly left, guard Mike Iupati is expected to go to Arizona and, worst of all, Colin Kaepernick trade rumors have run rampant.

How could the 49ers be in rebuilding mode after three NFC Championships and one Super Bowl visit in three of the last four years? Their mediocre 8-8 record in 2015 was more reminiscent of a house-divded than an indication of deep problems. Like every team, problems need to be addressed, but did anybody expect this type of mass exodus post-Harbaugh.

It is obviously too early to talk poorly about San Francisco. Yet they do have to realize that if the 49ers do not succeed, then the organization will forever be stigmatized for forcing Harbaugh out.

On a more upbeat note, Willis retired “because he has a passion to work with youth,” according to NFL’s Jim Trotter. Good for him yet he will sorely missed by the 49ers, the NFL and the fans.

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