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Fred Warner: ‘You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result’

“It sucks to lose. I hate losing. We have to change something,” Warner added

Buffalo Bills v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

After Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, there was yet again a somber tone from Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers players. This time, more than ever, their disappointment was voiced. All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner said: “It sucks to lose. I hate losing. We have to change something. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.”

That quote from your best player sums up Sunday’s postgame media availability. Frustration has boiled over as San Francisco was officially eliminated from the playoffs. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said once again that this had been his most frustrating season to date. A few of the media members continued to ask whether the move to Arizona has anything to do with the Niners' poor play. Here’s how Warner answered that question:

“I can’t answer that if it is or if it isn’t. I can speak for myself and say I don’t care about what the situation is because I know it’s going to end at some point. I know we’re not going to have to stay in Arizona for our entire life. We had a designated time period to be in Arizona. Then the season is going to end, and we go back home. We needed to take care of business while we were in Arizona.

The team has done a great job of giving us everything that we need. Guys just have to do their job. I don’t care what the situation is. Yeah, we can talk about COVID, we can talk about injuries. All that stuff has a factor in it. It means something, but we just gotta play complementary football. That’s just what it is. It’s frustrating. Obviously, you can hear the frustration in my voice, but, you know, it’s just because I care.”

I asked Warner what his expectations were when he said, “complementary football.” After the game, Shanahan said he was disappointed in the defense as they did not generate any turnovers. Warner said he expects the defense to force two or three turnovers a game. That’s not sustainable, but there’s a reason that these guys feel like they have to overcompensate if you’re wondering why then look no further than the other side of the ball.

We mentioned how Warner used Albert Einstein’s line at the top of the article, and he has a point. We’ve seen Nick Mullens and the offense make the same mistakes every week. While we’re spreading the blame, San Francisco’s special teams' units haven’t been lighting it up. Richie James’ lost fumble was the third on a punt for the 49ers this season, which leads the NFL. The Niners haven’t lost that many fumbles in 23 years.

Since Week 8, per RBSDM, Nick Mullens has the worst EPA+CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) composite score in the NFL. During that time, Mullens has the third-worst EPA/play, fourth-worst success rate, second-lowest CPOE, and only Jared Goff has a lower average of air yards. So, as has been the case for the past two seasons, Kyle Shanahan hasn’t asked much from his quarterback. Just know where to go with the ball and deliver it on time and accurately.

When people say air yards don’t matter, they neglect how not stretching the field allows defenses to load the box. Mullens is averaging 6.4 air yards per attempt since Week 8. Defenses are crowding the box as they know he’s not going to throw the ball down the field. Heck, I was surprised Mullens threw the ball to the second-level on a few play-action passes on Sunday. When you’re not challenged as a defense, you can sit on routes in the secondary and pin your ears back along the defensive line. That’s a nightmare combo for a play-caller.

Mullens, who is now tied for the highest interception percentage in the NFL at 3.7%, is also tied for the third-most interceptions in the NFL despite starting at least three fewer games than the players ahead of him, was only pulled from Sunday’s contest due to injury. Mullens lost sensation in his arm, which is why Shanahan took him out of the game. The jokes will write themselves after that statement.

The 49ers needed Mullens to play backup point guard and distribute the ball without turning it over. We’ve seen the same mistakes from Mullens, whose interceptions now feel inevitable. We shouldn’t be surprised when they happen, as the sample size is going on for two months.

“You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over against and expect a different result.”