49ers part ways with defensive coordinator Steve Wilks after first season

On Wednesday, afternoon the 49ers’ Super Bowl 58 loss, Kyle Shanahan announced to the media that he has decided to relieve defensive coordinator Steve Wilks of his duties.

The 49ers are on the search for the fourth defensive coordinator in five seasons.

Shanahan met with Steve Wilks on Wednesday morning and informed him he was sacked after one season running the 49ers’ defense.

When asked about Wilks’ status on Tuesday, Shanahan was vague. But a day later after he informed Wilks of his decision, Shanahan made the announcement on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“(It’s a) really tough decision because really it says nothing about Steve as a man or as a football coach,” Shanahan said.

“He’s exactly what we wanted as a man. And he’s a great football coach.

“But just where we’re going, where we’re at with our team from a scheme standpoint and things like that. Looking through it all throughout the year and these last few days, (I) felt pretty strongly this was the decision that was best for our organization.”

Robert Saleh served as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020 before landing the job as the New York Jets’ head coach.

DeMeco Ryans was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator in 2021 and 2022. He was hired as head coach of the Houston Texans last offseason.

Wilks, 54, was hired from outside the organization after finishing the 2022 NFL season as the interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

He came to the 49ers without any background in the defensive scheme that the club had run in the first six seasons of Shanahan’s tenure.

“Yeah, that was the hardest part,” Shanahan said. “I knew that was the challenge.

“We committed to not only the system but the players within the system, the D-line, the linebackers. They’d played in it for such a long time. It was my goal to not have to change all of them.”

Wilks appeared to work well with the team’s defensive backs but things were not as smooth when putting together his weekly plans for the 49ers’ front seven.

Shanahan said he will look internally at his own staff to consider candidates, as well as outside the organization for coaches experienced in running the same system.

Among the 49ers’ defensive coaches who could be considered for the promotion are defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, linebackers coach Johnny Holland, defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks and defensive passing game specialist Nick Sorensen.

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” Shanahan said.

“It was something I had to put a lot of time into. Now that I had that conversation with Steve this morning, now I’ll start working on the interview process and find who’s best for our group.”

The 49ers will have other positions to fill on their coaching staff with some individuals leaving for other NFL opportunities.

Assistant head coach/running backs Anthony Lynn becomes the run game coordinator with the Washington Commanders under new coach Dan Quinn.

Assistant defensive line coach Darryl Tapp also joins the Commanders as defensive line coach. Passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak was hired as New Orleans’ offensive coordinator. And assistant offensive line coach James Cregg becomes offensive line coach of the Raiders.



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