49ers may eye this defensive coordinator if Nick Sorensen doesn't pan out

If Nick Sorensen ends up being a one-and-done coordinator in the Bay Area, the Niners may look to the opposite coast to find his replacement in 2025.
New York Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich
New York Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

The 49ers hope Nick Sorensen is a long-term answer at defensive coordinator, but there's another name to watch if Sorensen doesn't work out.

First-year San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen hopes he's not just a placeholder.

Sorensen, of course, got the promotion earlier this offseason in the wake of the Niners firing their 2023 coordinator, Steve Wilks, after one season. While Wilks was effective enough, he and head coach Kyle Shanahan simply weren't having the same vision, which led to San Francisco staying in-house and giving Sorensen, who had previously been the team's defensive pass game specialist, the job.

But Shanahan and the 49ers know Sorensen might not pan out either, and it's notable how they also hired former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley to serve as a defensive advisor.

So, what if Sorenson winds up having a Wilks-like tenure in his new job, a one-and-done year?

If that's the case, the Niners would be seeking a new coordinator for the third time in as many years.

And there might just be one name they're honing in on as a possible replacement.

Jets DC Jeff Ulbrich could be on 49ers' radar in 2025

2024 is a vital year for the New York Jets. And it's a crucial season for head coach Robert Saleh, another former San Francisco defensive coordinator who finds his coaching seat burning red hot after finishing with below-.500 records since taking over the job in 2021.

Saleh, of course, could be another 49ers coordinating candidate in 2025, provided Sorensen doesn't work out and the Jets, too, ultimately elect to clean house.

But the Niners may opt to pursue one of Saleh's understudies, New York's defensive coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich.

There were rumors about Ulbrich being a San Francisco candidate earlier this offseason after two successful seasons with Gang Green in which the defense ranked in the top four in fewest yards allowed despite a woeful offense. Plus, the Northern California native was drafted by the 49ers in 2000 and spent 10 years playing there as a quality linebacker.

Beyond that, Ulbrich was also on the Atlanta Falcons' coaching staff in 2015 and 2016 when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator there.

Of course, a number of links in the chain toward Ulbrich being the next Niners coordinator would have to connect.

Sorensen would have to fail to meet expectations. The Jets would underachieve, too, to the point where Saleh (and most likely his entire staff) would be dismissed, and then San Francisco would have to pursue Ulbrich over Saleh, provided the former doesn't wind up getting a head-coaching job of his own, as he's already viewed as a top candidate for such a job in 2025.

Either way, it's an interesting thought. And it might be a reunion worth following, if all the proverbial pieces fall into place.

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