49ers fire defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Field Level Media

February 14, 2024 at 10:15 pm.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Wednesday that he has fired defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, three days after the team’s loss in the Super Bowl.

Shanahan’s announcement comes one day after saying he expected “all our coaches to be back.” It also comes the same day as the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade.

Shanahan told reporters on a conference call that Wilks “just ended up being not the right fit.” Shanahan said he wasn’t sure until Wednesday about making the move.

“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. “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.”

He added the team will consider in-house and external candidates to take over for Wilks in 2024.

Wilks was hired last year to replace DeMeco Ryans, who left to become the head coach of the Houston Texans.

Wilks’ defense held the Chiefs to one touchdown in regulation in the 25-22 loss on Sunday but gave up 455 yards.

San Francisco allowed an NFC-low 17.5 points per game during the regular season.

The Niners on Wednesday also lost assistant head coach Anthony Lynn to the Washington Commanders, where he is taking on the run game coordinator job for new head coach Dan Quinn.

They also lost passing game specialist Klint Kubiak to the New Orleans Saints, who hired him as their offensive coordinator.

Wilks, 54, was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 and the interim coach of the Carolina Panthers for part of the 2022 season. He has a 9-19 overall record. Wilks began the 2022 season as the Panthers’ passing game coordinator and secondary coach before being named interim head coach after Matt Rhule was fired.

He’s also been a DC with the Panthers in 2017 and Cleveland Browns in 2019.

He interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the Chargers before they hired Jim Harbaugh.

Wilks has worked with defense throughout the majority of his NFL coaching career. He was in charge of the secondary with the Washington franchise in 2005 and served as the defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears (2006-08), then-San Diego Chargers (2009-11) and Panthers (2012-17).