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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan announces 49ers fire defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Feb 14, 2024 at 2:32 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers scheduled a last-minute conference call with head coach Kyle Shanahan, the day after he and general manager John Lynch addressed reporters during a press conference. Here is everything the coach said during the surprise Wednesday conversation.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"Hey guys, just want to get you guys back together. I know we got together yesterday, but there's a couple things yesterday that wasn't ready to talk about yet because I wasn't sure which direction I was going to go. I've been sleeping on this for a few nights and I'm trying to come up with a few tough decisions. But this morning I relieved [former defensive coordinator] Steve Wilks of his duties. Going to end up making a change here at defensive coordinator. Really tough decision because really says nothing about Steve as a man or as a football coach. He is 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 the 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 organization, then it's something that I have to do. So I let him know this morning. I know I wasn't able to let you guys know yesterday because I wasn't sure about it yesterday, but I am now. That's the case. I wanted to let you guys know firsthand. So I'll open it up for questions."

Does this have to do with just kind of him coming in from outside the building and not being familiar with the system that you guys had run successfully for so many years before this?

"Yes, that was the hardest part. I knew that was a challenge. It was tough. It was real tough losing [Houston Texans head coach] DeMeco [Ryans], it was tough losing [New York Jets head coach Robert] Saleh the year before. But we had committed to not just the system, but the players that had been in the system from our D-Line our linebackers. They had played in it for such a long time. So it was my goal to not have to change all of them. And bringing in Steve who was unbelievable and how loyal he was and him trying to do it, but it just ended up not being the right fit. And it hurt for me to do this, but that's exactly why I had to."

So now do you look inside the building or do you look for people familiar with that system outside the building?

"We'll do both. We've got some good coaches in here. I'm definitely going to look outside also. So there's a number of things I got to do for the interview process. But this wasn't an easy decision so it's something that I had to really put a lot of time into. Now that I had that conversation with Steve this morning, which now that's taken care of and now I'll start working on the interview process and things like that, trying to find who's best for our group."

Steve was the first guy that you had as a coordinator that kind of had a different background working with DBs and things like that. Do you think there was some sort of disconnect there not having a guy with a linebacker who can kind of connect the front and the back well there? Was that part of the issue here?

"Yes, I think it was. I don't think that just is solely because his background's DBs. I just think it has to do with the way we play linebacker and stuff like that. And the way that [LB] Fred [Warner] and [LB] Dre [Greenlaw] have done it here over the years and the way we've coached it. There's no one way to do things, but you want to tie things together. Steve was always working to do that. There's no doubt about that. But it was just for his background and how it ended up with us, it was just, it was harder than it needed to be. I felt it would improve us going in a different direction."

Have you ever broached being a defensive coordinator with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek or linebackers coach Johnny Holland, either of those two guys?

"Yes. I've been around those guys for a while. So talk about a lot of things."

What's the feedback been from Kocurek? Is he happy being a defensive line coach or is that something that he's interested in being a DC?

"I think it's always a possibility for him, but I know what Kris majors in. I know what he loves to do. His passion is D-Line. He doesn't go outside of that a lot. But Kris is a hell of a coach and he's capable of doing a lot."

Is defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks someone you'd consider for the job?

"I'm going to talk to all these guys. I haven't really talked. I just did this with Steve about an hour ago and haven't got a chance to meet with all these guys. But all of them will have a chance. I'm not going to specify anyone in particular this early. But D.B.'s done a great job for us here over the years. He's a coach that I have a lot of respect for."

Are you committed to the system that you've been running or would you consider bringing in a defensive coordinator who comes in with his own system?

"I'm committed to trying, with the 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 the best thing to do for them. But if I find something that I should 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 close-minded in any way. I'll look into every possibility. But you know when you have some good players who have played at a high level and done it a certain way, I'm not just trying to change that. I lean towards trying to keep them doing similar stuff that they've been very good at that's got us very far. But I have to make sure that I find the right person who's capable of leading our group in that way. That the standard of how we have done it and that the belief that we'll continue to get better at it I believe in with whoever I choose to do this for us."

Have you had had a chance to talk to any of the players before talking to us?

"No. I've talked to a number of the players. I've got pretty good relationships with them overall. But no, they're not in the building so it's not like I could call them and let them know here. I wanted to make sure that, things have a way of getting out so I just wanted to make sure that I got it out to you guys before it came out some random way."

What are you looking for personality-wise because DeMeco Ryans and Robert Saleh were obviously very energetic on the sideline. I don't know if you know that had anything to do with your decision?

"That has nothing to do with my decision. Watch Saleh now, he is not that energetic. No, that energetic on the sidelines has absolutely nothing to do with coaching."

There's reports about some of your other coaches going to other opportunities. Can you just kind of confirm which coaches in fact will be leaving to take other jobs?

"Yeah, [former assistant offensive line coach] James Cregg got the O-Line job with the Raiders. [Former assistant defensive line coach Darryl] Tapp, D-Line coach at Washington. And [former assistant head coach/running backs coach] Anthony Lynn is going to be run game coordinator at Washington. And I believe we already talked about [former offensive passing game specialist] Klint Kubiak."

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