All-Pro middle linebacker Fred Warner will hear a different voice in his ear during the 2021 NFL season.
Former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who would relay the play call into Warner’s helmet, is the new head coach of the New York Jets.
DeMeco Ryans officially was hired last week to succeed Saleh as defensive coordinator after spending the past three seasons as 49ers linebackers coach.
“It’s obviously bittersweet to lose Coach Saleh because he was such an amazing coach,” Warner said on "49ers Talk."
“I know he’ll do such a great job with the Jets. But losing one of the best defensive coaches — or coaches, in general — in the league is always going to hurt.”
Warner has not missed a game in his three-year NFL career. This season, he was chosen as a first-team All-Pro player at middle linebacker. He worked closely with Ryans, who played nine seasons in the NFL.
Warner said there is little question Ryans is ready for his opportunity.
“But I’m really excited about Coach Ryans, DeMeco, getting his shot at being D.C.,” Warner said. “I know he’s more than prepared and ready to take that over and do a great job.”
Saleh was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns’ head-coaching job a year ago, before Kevin Stefanski was hired.
Although there were a number of candidates to replace Saleh outside the building this year, it seemed obvious toward the end of the season coach Kyle Shanahan would promote Ryans to the role.
“DeMeco is a great candidate because he’s a young, up-and-coming coach who’s extremely intelligent,” Warner said. “And he obviously has done a great job with the linebacking corps.
“So it only made sense if you want to keep the core in-house of what we do to have DeMeco be the D.C.”
Warner said he does not know if the X’s and O’s will change much with the 49ers’ defense. He stopped himself just short of saying he believes the 49ers could feature a more aggressive approach on defense under Ryans.
“I think not a lot will change,” Warner said. “I think we have a great culture as it is with the mindset of being a fast, physical, violent and smart defense.”