49ers hiring ex-Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks as DC

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A week after defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans left to become head coach of the Houston Texans, the San Francisco 49ers have his replacement.

The Niners are hiring Steve Wilks, most recently interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers, as their next defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday. Wilks’ hiring comes one day after his official interview with the team.

Beginning his search for a Ryans replacement last week, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear he hoped to maintain continuity in a defense that has consistently been at the top of the league in recent seasons.

“I love our defense,” Shanahan said last week. “I’m trying to get something that doesn’t require us to flip a lot. I’d like to keep the same staff, so I’ll be speaking to a few people on our team. I’ll be speaking to some people outside of our staff and hopefully whatever path we choose, whether we hire a new guy or not, that it’s someone who can work with what we have here and what we’ve achieved here .Because I love the program that we run and I feel the foundation we have on the D-line, as a linebacker, on the corner, on safety. I think our players fit in very well too, so I’m hoping to find someone who fits in with us in terms of personality and pattern.

Shanahan’s insistence on keeping things the same comes from a Niners defense that has ranked second in the NFL in points (18.9) and yards allowed per game (305.3) and the ranked fourth in defensive efficiency by ESPN (60.7) and yards per game (5.04) and fifth in defensive EPA (67.02).

In Wilks, the Niners are getting someone with NFL experience as a head coach, defensive coordinator, and defensive backs coach. Last season, he was Carolina’s defensive passing coordinator and assistant coach before being promoted to interim head coach after Matt Rhule was fired.

With Wilks in the lead, the Panthers narrowly won the NFC South Division crown 6-6. Prior to that, Wilks was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, defensive coordinator of the Panthers in 2017, and defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2019.

Like Ryans and Robert Saleh before him, Wilks favors a 4-3 base defense that mixes coverage and emphasizes pressure with the front four.

Wilks was considered a finalist to become the Panthers’ permanent head coach, but Carolina chose Frank Reich instead. Wilks released a statement on Twitter following Reich’s hiring, saying, among other things, “I’m disappointed but not defeated. A lot of people aren’t built for it, but I know what it takes to persevere and see it through.”

While Wilks didn’t land a head coaching job this offseason, he landed in a spot that was a stepping stone to those positions. The two previous coaches who served as defensive coordinators under Shanahan (Ryans and Saleh) went on to become head coaches.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35608876/sources-49ers-hiring-ex-panthers-interim-coach-steve-wilks-dc 49ers hiring ex-Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks as DC

Emma Bowman

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