On Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers fired defensive coordinator Steve Wilks three days after the team lost the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilks joined the 49ers in 2023 and led one of the most efficient defenses in the league this season.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, claiming that he made the decision himself.

“I was sleeping on this for a few nights, trying to come up with a few tough decisions, but this morning I relieved Steve Wilks of his duties,” Shanahan said. “Gonna end up making a change here at defensive coordinator. Really tough decision. It says nothing about Steve as a man or football coach. He’s 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 the decision that was best for our organization.”

Like Shanahan, Wilks has been to the Super Bowl three times over the course of his career but has never won. He was the Chicago Bears’ defensive backs coach in 2006 when the team lost to the Indianapolis Colts. He was also the assistant head coach of the 15-1 Carolina Panthers team that lost to the Denver Broncos to end the 2015 season.

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Shanahan and Wilks reportedly disagreed throughout the 2023 season, with the head coach eventually requesting that his defensive coordinator call plays from a booth instead of the sideline. Under Wilks, the 49ers’ defense dropped from the least points allowed in the league in 2022 to fourth least in 2023.

Based on his prodigious resume spanning three decades and 15 NFL and college programs, Wilks will almost certainly find another position in football this off-season. At one point last year, he was considered for the Panthers’ head coaching vacancy after filling in as interim coach at the end of the 2022 season.

The 49ers, meanwhile, are in a frustrating fine-tuning stage after suffering their second Super Bowl defeat in four years. With the most star-studded offense in football and one of the toughest defenses, the team figured as a prohibitive Super Bowl favorite this year and will maintain that title next year.

But for all of San Francisco’s success this season, Shanahan could not overcome Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who won their third Super Bowl together in five seasons. It seems that Wilks, despite a credible (if turbulent) job in San Francisco this season, was the first on the chopping block for the team’s setback.

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