Fred Warner, Kyle Shanahan stick up for embattled Steve Wilks

Neither Fred Warner nor Kyle Shanahan are giving up on Steve Wilks anytime soon.
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Steve Wilks is catching some heat for the 49ers defense underperforming as of late, but Fred Warner and Kyle Shanahan don't feel the problem is with Wilks.

Every defensive coordinator under San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has gone through some notable period of criticism.

Now-New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh endured it for much of 2017 and 2018, while now-Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans experienced a good chunk of it in 2021.

In the middle of the 2023 season, it appears as if it's now-Niners coordinator Steve Wilks' turn.

While there have been some general underperformances by San Francisco's defense thus far this season, including a relatively lackluster pass rush, the 49ers had boasted a top-three defense prior to a three-game losing streak that now has them at 5-3 halfway through the year. But some questionable calls by Wilks, including a zero blitz right before halftime in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings, led to some heat.

Even Shanahan got in on the criticism.

Now, in the wake of the Niners' third loss in a row, a 31-17 drubbing at the hands of the suddenly hot Cincinnati Bengals, Wilks is feeling the pressure even more.

Even if Shanahan's offense has failed to reach 20 points for three weeks in a row now.

Kyle Shanahan shifts blame from Steve Wilks to entire team after 49ers loss to Bengals

Shanahan might have been wrong to toss his coordinator under the bus a little after the loss to Minnesota, so it's feasiible he wanted to recall his words and offer up more of an endorsement for Wilks instead after what happened against Cincy.

When asked about his coordinator, Shanahan offered the following in his postgame presser:

"This isn't on any one coach or any one side of the ball. We haven't scored over 20 points here in three weeks too. So, I think our defense needs to do better. I think our offense needs to do better. I think our team needs to do better. And when I say our team, I mean every single player in there and I mean every single coach."

In a sense, Shanahan could blame himself, too, given that he calls the offensive plays. And that offense has struggled mightily over the last three weeks, while Wilks' defense has often had to come to the rescue in varying situations.

That said, if Shanahan isn't losing faith in Wilks, are the players?

Fred Warner squashes suggestion that 49ers' problem is Steve Wilks

It's theoretically possible that the Niners' star-studded defense hasn't bought into what Wilks is selling, although prior to the season beginning, Wilks made it clear he wasn't going to change too much from what Ryans left him.

Speaking later in the postgame presser, All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner was asked a similar question about confidence in Wilks.

"That's the least of my worries," Warner said of the criticism toward Wilks. "Honestly, I think players win games, not coaches. I think he's done a great job."

Warner has a point. In the same interview, the defensive captain brought up basic issues that plagued the defense throughout the game, including a flurry of missed tackles.

Wilks can't call plays that make up for those.

"At the end of the day, players are going to be the reason why we win games," Warner concluded. "We've got to execute at a higher level."

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