Report: 49ers set to name Steve Wilks defensive coordinator

The 49ers got their man.

According to Tom Peliserro of NFL Network, Wilks is set to become the next defensive coordinator for San Francisco. Wilks will replace DeMeco Ryans. Ryans became the new head coach for the Houston Texans last week after two successful seasons coordinating the Niners defense.

A leader of men, Wilks has shown the ability to inspire and motivate his players.

This past season saw Wilks named as interim head coach in Carolina, replacing Matt Rhule following a 1-4 start. Under new leadership the Panthers improved to 6-6 in their final 12 contests, falling a game short of Tampa Bay for the NFC South championship.

Wilks began his NFL career in 2005 as secondary coach for Washington. Stints as the defensive backs coach for Chicago and San Diego followed. In 2012 he joined Carolina for the first time as the defensive backs coach under Ron Rivera. Under Wilks’ tutelage Josh Norman was named first team All-Pro in , helping the Panthers to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl berth in 2015.

This will mark Wilks’ third appointment to defensive coordinator. He previously was the defensive coordinator for Carolina in 2017 and Cleveland in 2019. In between, Wilks served as head coach in Arizona where two of his three wins came against his new employer.

Wilks will take over a 49ers defense which allowed the fewest points (16.3) and second fewest yards (299.7) per game in 2022.

During his end of year press conference on February 1, Kyle Shanahan said he was “hoping to find someone who fits with us personality-wise and scheme wise.” He has found that with Wilks who has a history working with a hybrid 4-3 and Wide 9 defense. Wilks’ history of success in the secondary will be beneficial for a 49ers defense likely to have a pair of new starters in its defensive backfield.

This article has 24 Comments

  1. Sounds like a good hire from all that I have heard or read. I really like the idea that DBs are his specialty. I think the 9ers staff is already strong at DL and LBs but we haven’t been as strong at DBs since Fangio left another DC whose specialty was DBs. I only hope he stays around for 2 years so we can score those 3rd round picks. If the 9ers are anywhere near as good next year as this past year I think he may be gone.

    1. Seems losing good coaches keeps happening every year. Every time one goes for a promotion with another team, they take some of the other coaches too with them. At least we got to keep Ryan’s for 2 years instead of one and we still have our DL coach. Positive problem to have?

  2. Sounds like a great hire! I hope he can teach our Db’s to allow fewer deep passes to wideouts like what happened in the Raiders and Cowboys games. Can’t wait until next season. Happy our d’line coach is staying.

  3. I’ll take a wait and see attitude. Hopefully, he is fantastic but my initial reaction is not good. The guy has bounced around to quite a few teams over the past 5 years for a reason. It’s not like he has a great track record as a DC at any level. Hopefully, the 49ers talent and culture is the right fit and he is as good as DeMeco was for the team. When Wilks left the DC job at Missou for the Panthers, this was written about his tenure with the Tigers in an article titled Steve Wilks’ departure may actually be a net positive:

    In his lone season in charge of the defense, the Tigers struggled greatly in Wilks’ 4-2-5 defensive system, particularly against the run. Of Missouri’s 13 opponents, seven of them rushed for over 200 yards. In-state opponent Southeast Missouri State even racked up 294 yards on the ground.

    In an October game at home against Tennessee, the Tigers’ defense hit rock bottom. The defense yielded nearly 700 yards of total offense (458 rushing yards) in a 62-24 blowout loss. They ended the week ranked dead last in the FBS in total rushing yards allowed per game (283.9) and second to last in average yard per carry (6.3).

    Despite calls by many for the in-season firing of Wilks, he was retained. After the firing of defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and a few lineup changes, the defense began showing incremental progress down with stretch against South Carolina and Florida.

    Despite positive progress, the Mizzou run defense concluded the season ranked 124th out of 130 FBS schools. The 227.8 rushing yards allowed per game was the second most allowed by a Missouri defense in the last 25 years,

    1. the sky is falling. This world these days is full of manpons. Congrats for being a very good one.

      1. That actually is pretty funny. Never heard that term. Wilks does not have a good track record. Pointing that out is not a Chicken Little moment. But sure, go on a 49er blog and insult people for having a different opinion than you. That should increase engagement and discussion between the Faithful in the 49er community. Great strategy.

        1. Shanahan has a great record for hiring coaches and especially DCs so your opinion is strange to say the least.

          1. Shanahan has a great track record but no one is infallible. What did Anthony Lynn contribute this year? Why was Richard Hightower a coordinator for an underperforming unit for so long? Was Rich Scangarello a good QB coach? Wilks was a defensive coach in Carolina under Ron Rivera. He was running Rivera’s defense on the only good defenses Wilks ever coached. Over the past 5 years without Rivera, Wilks has not been part of a team that won more than 6 games. He’s had some defenses that were genuinely bad. I would say if you look at Wilk’s actual history, it would be odd not to be skeptical about this hire.

              1. Which fact I stated troubled you the most? Here’s the defensive rank for the last 5 teams Wilks coached:

                2022 – 18th ranked defense (Carolina)
                2021 – 124th ranked defense out of 130 teams in NCAA
                2020 – out of football
                2019 – 20th ranked defense (Cleveland)
                2018 – 26th ranked defense (Arizona)
                2017 – 13th ranked defense (Carolina running Ron Rivera’s defense)

                Now you tell me, is that the resume of a guy you think is a sure fire great hire?

  4. Who knows what Mizzou’s talent was like. They are not a powerhouse team playing in a power house conference. They also don’t recruit well most of their players come from inside their state and look who they are recruiting against Bama, Georgia and the likes. I was shocked when they moved from the Big 12 to the SEC.

    1. Sure. I think that’s the obvious rebuttal but it’s not a great endorsement to see that the fans celebrated when he left a college job.

  5. Boy how far we have come. I was listening to KNBR a few minutes ago when Tom Tolbert said this will be the first SB with two starting black QBs and I wasn’t even aware of it until now. I can remember the first starting black QB. I can remember the first starting black QB and what a big deal it was.

    1. Coach,
      I never gave that any thought either.
      But, the fact that it’s not a big deal anymore is a good thing.

    2. First black Super Bowl Quarterback was Doug Williams right? I remember watching that Super Bowl and not really knowing about Doug Williams being a black QB being a big deal.

      I just looked it up. Yeah…it was Doug Williams. According to wikipedia:

      According to legend, Williams was asked this question on Media Day: “How long have you been a black quarterback?” He supposedly replied, “I’ve been a quarterback since high school, and I’ve been black all my life.” On February 1, 2013, Williams was interviewed on the Boomer and Carton show, and he was asked by the host Craig Carton if the question ever happened. He replied that it was true. Williams said he thought the reporter was a little nervous and the question may have come out the wrong way and that no ill will was meant towards him.

      1. Allfor,
        I was reading an article by Bob Padecky of the Press Democrat who said he was there when that question was asked. He said that wasn’t the dumbest question he ever heard at SB week. He said Jim Plunkett was asked “was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?”

        1. “was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?”

          I don’t know what that is in reference to.

          1. Plunkett was raised by to blind parents and his Father had recently passed away. His answer was Father blind, mother blind, mother alive , father deceased.

  6. I think they should have hire some aggressive mind coach for san. Wilks is some how defensive but aggression shows the passion.

  7. The two scheme traits that I like most about Wilks is what I liked least about Ryans/Salah.
    #1 He is a DB specialist of the 3 areas of D the DBs have been the weakest. A DC who’s strength is DBs hopefully will eliminate/lessen coverage errors. He is a zone guy so synchronicity and discipline are key hopefully he can strengthen those areas.
    #2 Most important to me he is a blitz guy. I believe the 49ers have woefully underused Warner, Greenlaw, Al-Shaair, Hufanga and J. Ward in blitz packages. Late in 2022 and in the playoffs the 49ers front 4 seemed to be concentrating on containing QBs in the pocket, pressuring them while not sacking them. I believe that a 2nd and long or 3rd down blitz package would have been far more effective in getting the D off the field. I know live by the blitz die by the blitz but with the talent we have at D line they won’t live by blitzing but they just need to augment there rush especially versus mobile QBs. imho

    1. Agree with #1. I do like the DB focus and origin for defensive coordinators. I like LBer coaches as well as they need to know coverages and run fits. I like d-line coaches the least for defensive coordinator jobs because they don’t necessarily need to know coverages.

      Don’t necessarily agree with #2. Specific blitz packages are fine but not if over-used. I think the best defenses get pressure with 4 rushers. I thought DeMeco did a good job mixing in blitzes at the right times. I don’t really like guys with high volume exotic blitz packages. I’m not a Steve Spagnulo fan for that very reason. I really like how Dennis Allen with the Saints manages his defense and blitz packages. He’s probably too blitz heavy but I like how he uses his blitzers.

      Not sure how Wilks approaches blitz packages as part of his scheme so that will be interesting to watch.

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