Kyle Shanahan calls out Steve Wilks, is 49ers defensive coordinator on the hot seat?

Did Kyle Shanahan just put his defensive coordinator in the doghouse?
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Kyle Shanahan didn't exactly mince words about one particular play that Steve Wilks called that had disastrous results for the 49ers last Monday.

In the waning seconds of the first half during the San Francisco 49ers' Monday Night Football game against the Minnesota Vikings, cornerback Charvarius Ward nearly picked off his second interception of the game by ripping the ball from wide receiver Jordan Addison.

The only problem was Addison ended up ripping the ball from Ward's grasp. And, with no other Niners defender nearby, the wideout scampered into the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown just before halftime that put Minnesota up 16-7.

What happened?

For the football geeks out there, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks called for what's known as a zero blitz, which means no over-the-top coverage. It'll be one on one for all the defensive backs in coverage. In this play, seven players rushed while four stayed in coverage.

When Ward was beat, it was an easy touchdown.

Blitzes of that kind can work, but they're not exactly ideal for a 3rd-and-6 play with just 16 seconds remaining in the half. Prevent defenses would have been better, or even just a standard Cover 2 or Cover 4 zone with defensive backs playing off-man. The Vikings were on their own 40-yard line, after all.

Wilks' call didn't earn him too many endorsements from Niners fans, and after another frustrating loss for San Francisco, his defense is starting to feel the heat.

Some of which just came from head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Kyle Shanahan on Steve Wilks' 0-blitz call: 'He knows he messed up'

Postgame, Shanahan told reporters that he'd look into the zero-blitz play call to get a greater understanding of the situation.

On Wednesday, Shanahan revealed that it was a notable mistake from the game, one that heavily influenced the 49ers' 22-17 defeat:

"... He knows he messed up on that call. I have no problem with zero blitzes, especially when people need a lot of yards. If you need to get 20 yards to kick a field goal, I have no problem with a zero blitz. But I do when there’s 16 seconds left. That’s where he lost track. There was no necessary need for that just because of the time. I have no problem with that play call, but when it’s that time you can’t do that. That’s not an option."

Poor situational football. As Shanahan pointed out, calls like that would work in other situations but not with 16 seconds left in the half.

While it wasn't the lone mistake that did the Niners in, it was a bad one nevertheless. And Shanahan being bluntly frustrated about it is telling.

Is Steve Wilks on the hot seat, or is the 49ers coordinator still safe?

San Francisco's last two losses have been frustrating, yes. And cracks have revealed themselves from within Wilks' defense, including a porous run defense and a seemingly absent pass rush.

Plus, against a Vikings team that was without it's No. 1 weapon in All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the 49ers gave up a whopping 452 net yards of offense.

That should be enough to put Wilks on the hot seat, right?

Well, no.

For starters, it's going to take far more than just a two-game skid to endanger Wilks. Additionally, the Niners surrendered 19 and 22 points, respectively, in those back-to-back games.

Shanahan's offense, meanwhile, failed to break 20 points in either of those same games.

San Francisco still owns the league's third-best scoring defense, and its 11 interceptions put the team at No. 1 in that particular category.

From that perspective, Shanahan might be frustrated at Wilks but certainly not to the point of wanting him gone anytime soon, if at all.

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