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Report: 49ers explored hiring Jeff Ulbrich as defensive coordinator

Mar 4, 2024 at 11:02 AM--

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Over the weekend, news broke that the San Francisco 49ers promoted defensive passing game specialist Nick Sorensen to defensive coordinator. Sorensen steps in for Steve Wilks, who was relieved of his duties following the team's Super Bowl defeat last month.

Sorensen emerged from a pool of candidates that included 49ers defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks, Kansas City Chiefs defensive backs coach David Merritt, Las Vegas Raiders safeties coach Gerald Alexander, and former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.

Staley was brought on to serve as the assistant head coach under Kyle Shanahan.

Last week, Dianna Russini of The Athletic revealed the 49ers' interest in Kansas City's defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, which likely prompted the Chiefs to swiftly extend his contract.

A new report from Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic reveals that the 49ers also explored the possibility of hiring another team's defensive coordinator—Jeff Ulbrich of the New York Jets.

"There was mutual interest in exploring a marriage, according to multiple league sources, but ultimately the Jets made it clear that they were not going to let Ulbrich leave," Rosenblatt wrote. "Teams can block coaches under contract from taking jobs with other teams unless it is a promotion (from position coach to coordinator, or coordinator to head coach), which was not the case here."

Rosenblatt further notes that while the 49ers never formally requested an interview with Ulbrich, internal discussions about pursuing him occurred.

Ulbrich, a former player for the 49ers drafted in the third round of the 2000 NFL Draft, embarked on his coaching journey as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. He subsequently served as a linebackers coach with UCLA and the Atlanta Falcons before working his way to defensive coordinator with the Falcons in 2020.

Ulbrich has been the Jets' defensive coordinator since 2021, overseeing a defense that ranked third in total yards allowed and second against the pass last season.

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