49ers fire defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Feb 14, 2024 at 12:07 PM


San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan held a surprise conference call with reporters on Wednesday, which was unexpected considering he had spoken with the media on Tuesday. Contrary to his previous statement indicating no anticipated coaching changes, Shanahan officially announced the termination of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

"I've been sleeping on this for a few nights and trying to come up with a few tough decisions, but this morning, I relieved Steve Wilkes of his duties," Shanahan said. "Going to end up making a change here at defensive coordinator. A really tough decision because it really says nothing about Steve as a man or as a football coach. He's exactly what we wanted as a man. He is a great football coach. But just where we're going and where we're at with our team from a scheme standpoint and things like that, looking through it all throughout the year, through these last few days, I felt pretty strongly that this was a decision that was best for our organization.

"And even though it was one I didn't want to make, it was something that once I realized that I think a different direction is what's best for our organization, then it's something that I have to do. So let him know this morning, and I know I wasn't able to let you guys know yesterday because I wasn't sure about it yesterday. But I am now, and that's the case, and I wanted to let you guys know firsthand."

Shanahan acknowledged that the team's initial intention to bring in Wilks without altering the defensive scheme or personnel complicated his tenure with the 49ers. He commended Wilks for his willingness to try to adapt within those constraints.

"It just ended up not being the right fit," Shanahan continued. "And it hurt for me to do this, but that's exactly why I had to. ... But it was just for his background and how it ended up with us, it was harder than it needed to be, and I felt it would improve us going a different direction."

The 49ers will search for a replacement, considering both internal and external candidates.

Wilks' defense finished the regular season ranked eighth in yards allowed, third in points allowed, third in rushing yards allowed, and 14th in passing yards allowed. However, the unit struggled to defend against the run in the 49ers' playoff games.

Shanahan added, "I'm committed, with a situation we're in, trying to find what we believe will give the Niners the best chance in 2024. And when you have a group of guys who have played at a high level doing certain things a specific way for a while, I do feel that's (keeping the system intact) the best thing to do for them. But if I find something that I believe in and I could be sold on, that could be a better avenue, I would never hesitate to do that. So, I'm not closed-minded in any way. I'll look into every possibility."

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