5 best defensive coordinators 49ers can bring in to replace Steve Wilks

Kyle Shanahan said he'll consider both external and internal candidates to replace recently fired defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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The 49ers have opted to move on from Steve Wilks, meaning they'll need a new defensive coordinator in 2024. Here are five options.

The San Francisco 49ers' attempt to get the most out of their elite defense under coordinator Steve Wilks has come to an end.

During a surprise conference call with reporters on Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed that he had relieved Wilks of his duties as defensive coordinator after just one season, one in which the Niners owned the third-best scoring defense but still left many feeling as if that side of the ball could have performed at a much higher level.

Coupled with a collapse in Super Bowl 58's loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, it's understandable why San Francisco is moving on.

The job will be ideal, though. The 49ers still possess elite-level talent on that side of the ball, which is expected to be intact heading into 2024. Plus, prior Wilks, the Niners have used the defensive coordinator job as a pipeline to head-coaching jobs elsewhere. Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans both transitioned their defensive successes with San Francisco into head-coaching jobs with the New York Jets and Houston Texans, respectively.

But, who will be the top options to fill the void?

Shanahan also revealed that he will consider both internal and external options, but let's try helping him out a bit.

Here are five candidates Shanahan might want to call upon to replace Wilks in 2024 (and potentially beyond).

Option No. 1: Daniel Bullocks (49ers defensive backs coach)

One of the theories as to why Shanahan parted ways with Wilks is because the latter focused more on defensive backs and less on the 49ers' elite front seven.

That said, Shanahan might look to a younger in-house assistant who has already been immersed in the defensive scheme the Niners have had since 2017, current defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks.

Bullocks, a former NFL pro safety, joined San Francisco's staff in 2017 and was also with Saleh with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016, creating a lengthy association with the kind of defensive system the 49ers have operated.

As far as in-house options, this might be the best one. For those thinking defensive line coach Kris Kocurek would be a top choice, he has historically declined interest in accepting that kind of promotion.