49ers linebacker Fred Warner is not making any excuses for his team this season regardless of who plays at quarterback.
The San Francisco 49ers’ narrative last postseason was all too familiar: head into the playoffs on a high note, get decimated by injuries, and bow out to a better team.
When the 49ers came up against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship, there was real hope that Kyle Shanahan’s multi-faceted offense could defeat a squad as deep as the Eagles, but that hope quickly vanished when Brock Purdy injured his elbow in the first quarter.
Down Purdy, the team asked backup journeyman Josh Johnson to step up, but he eventually had to leave the game due to a concussion.
After establishing an early lead, the Eagles’ defense bottled up the 49ers’ for the rest of the game, booking their ticket to the Super Bowl while an injured Purdy and deflated 49ers squad could only look back on their performance thinking, “What if?”
In the moment, tight end George Kittle said it was “pretty s—ty” to lose the NFC Championship because “I don’t have a quarterback.”
Linebacker Fred Warner isn’t making that excuse this season.
49ers Fred Warner hits media with the classic cliché
Warner said recently:
“I’ll always say defense wins championships, so it’s going to start and end with us. We take that on our shoulders, that responsibility, and we need to be better.”
The star linebacker did mention that last year’s playoff loss to Philly was “hurtful,” and it goes without saying that Warner and his team are seeking a bit of retribution this time around.
Purdy and Trey Lance will anchor the 49ers quarterback room in 2023, and San Francisco seem to be favoring their beloved “Mr. Irrelevant” pick more than their 2021 first-rounder. Purdy, who had to undergo surgery for his elbow tear, will be racing against the clock to recover in time for the 49ers’ season opener; it seems more likely that Lance or offseason pickup Sam Darnold will get the start to allow Purdy adequate time to get on his feet.
Warner’s belief that “defense wins championships” isn’t wrong, but it’s hard to look at last year’s 49ers defense and place any amount of blame on Warner and his teammates for that NFC Championship loss.
Heading into 2023, the 49ers have recent coaching addition Steve Wilks running the defense but retained the same core pieces (Warner, Nick Bosa, Charvarius Ward, Dre Greenlaw, and the list goes on) who should make San Francisco automatic playoff contenders.
Per Warner’s words, contending isn’t enough. This stacked San Francisco roster is gunning for the Super Bowl, and they’re aiming to get there with or without a capable quarterback. If anyone could achieve that feat, it’d be the 49ers.