Examining 49ers' potential DC candidates after Wilks firing

Examining 49ers' potential DC candidates after Wilks firing originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The 49ers-Steve Wilks pairing didn't work, resulting in the team parting ways with the defensive coordinator after just one season.

Now, after falling just short in Super Bowl LVIII, San Francisco's focus is on returning to the big stage in 2024 with a new coordinator calling plays for the unit that for so long carried the team to success.

Coach Kyle Shanahan told Bay Area reporters via conference call Wednesday that he will look within the building at his own staff for potential suitors, as well as outside the organization for coaches who could fit well in San Francisco's complex system.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan discussed Wilks' firing on the latest "49ers Talk" and examined a list of potential candidates for the role.

Here is a list of potential candidates:


Nick Sorensen

Sorensen is fresh off his first season as the 49ers defensive passing game/nickel backs coach. He spent the 2022 season, his first with San Francisco, as a defensive assistant.

In 2022, the 49ers' defense ranked first overall in the NFL, allowing 300.6 total yards per game and first with 16.3 points allowed per game.

Before coming to the Bay, Sorensen spent the 2021 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the special teams coordinator.

Daniel Bullocks

Bullocks completed his seventh season with the 49ers and first as the team's defensive backs coach.

He spent the previous four seasons (2019-22) as San Francisco's safeties coach and the previous two seasons (2017-18) as an assistant defensive backs coach.

Kris Kocurek

Kocurek has spent the last five seasons as the 49ers defensive line coach.

He joined San Francisco in 2019 after spending the previous season with the Miami Dolphins as the defensive line coach.

Johnny Holland

Holland will enter his eighth season with the 49ers and potentially the fifth as the team's linebackers coach.

He previously served as the team's linebackers coach in 2017 and also worked as the 49ers run game specialist/outside linebackers coach from 2018-20.


Bill Belichick

Several big names have been tossed into the mix as potential suitors for San Francisco, and Belichick is one of them.

Belichick is regarded as one of the greatest head coaches of all time with numerous coaching records, including the record for most Super Bowl wins.

The football historian spent the past 23 seasons with the New England Patriots, making nine Super Bowl appearances and winning six with Tom Brady under center.

But when Brady departed to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England failed to make a deep playoff run. And after the Patriots finished the 2023 season with a 4-13 record -- the worst in Belichick's 24 seasons as coach -- the team and coach mutually agreed to part ways.

Pete Carroll

Carroll has been the longtime nemesis of the 49ers, but could he switch sides and join a team that for so long was his rival?

The one-time Super Bowl champ spent the last decade-plus as the Seattle Seahawks head coach.

As division rivals, the 49ers-Seahawks matchups intensified with Carroll calling the shots for Seattle.

But after the Seahawks were eliminated from playoff contention this season with the Green Bay Packers holding the playoff tiebreaker over them, Carroll and Seattle mutually agreed the coach would step down from his role but remain with the team as an advisor.

However, Maiocco believes neither Belichick nor Carroll are real options for San Francisco, stating he "can't imagine" either of the two wanting to be a coordinator at this stage of their careers.

Mike Vrabel

Vrabel spent the last six seasons as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, but he was dismissed from the job last month.

Tennessee finished the 2023 season with a 6-11 record, bringing Vrabel's all-time head-coaching record to 54-45.

He has the experience, both as a head coach and as a coordinator.

Before the Titans, Vrabel spent four seasons with the Houston Texans: The first three as linebackers coach and the final as their defensive coordinator. In 2016, the 49ers reportedly offered Vrabel their defensive coordinator job, but he declined the offer to remain in Houston.

While the 49ers weigh their options, the clock is ticking as several teams around the league already have their coaching staffs in place.

The 49ers want to make the right call after going through four defensive coordinators in five seasons, but their isn't much time.

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