Steve Wilks can't catch a break

Steve Wilks has had a weird six years.

In 2018, he got his chance to be a head coach. And he landed with the Cardinals, one of the most dysfunctional organizations in football.

He faced the reality of not having a G.M. available during training camp and the preseason, because Steve Keim had been suspended after pleading guilty to a charge of extreme DUI. Then, Wilks and others allegedly/actually were compelled to use burner phones to communicate with Keim when no communication was permitted.

When the season ended, Keim stayed and Wilks was fired. Which made little sense, and in turn fueled Wilks's eventual discrimination claim against the team.

Wilks then landed with the Browns as defensive coordinator. After the disastrous Freddie Kitchens experiment, Wilks was among the coaches who left after one year.

Out of football in 2020, Wilks was the defensive coordinator in Missouri for the 2021 season. He was hired to be the defensive coordinator with the Panthers in 2022. He took over early in the year as the interim head coach, after Matt Rhule was fired. Wilks did very well, and he should have gotten a chance to be the permanent head coach.

He landed with the 49ers as the successor to DeMeco Ryans, now the head coach of the Texans. It looked like a great fit for both Wilks and the team. Now, after one year that ended with a Super Bowl that concluded deep in the first overtime period, coach Kyle Shanahan has declared it was not a good fit.

While we aren't and likely won't be privy to whatever happened behind the scenes, it looked like a good fit. The 49ers went to the Super Bowl, for crying out loud. They held the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes under 20 points in 60 minutes of action.

They didn't lose the game because of their defense. Their offense was sluggish and largely ineffective in the Super Bowl. The defense gave the offense multiple opportunities to emerge from the first half with more than a seven-point lead.

But the offensive coordinator can't be fired by the head coach, because the offensive coordinator is the head coach.

Yes, there were moments that were uncharacteristic to the 49ers' defense of recent years. Remember the foolish cover zero blitz before halftime of the Monday night loss against the Vikings? Wilks called that. And Wilks was responsible for a defense that had issues with pursuit and effort in the NFC Championship.

Regardless, Wilks and the defense held the Chiefs to 19 points in regulation — 12 fewer than the Chiefs scored when Robert Saleh was the defensive coordinator four years earlier.

It just seems like an overreaction. And it's possibly a reflection of the mounting pressure on Shanahan to win a championship. Presumably, Shanahan already knows who will take over the defense. It will look like a much different move if Shanahan hires Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, or Mike Vrabel to take over.

Regardless, the timing stinks for Wilks. Yes, he has time left on his contract. He'll get paid if he doesn't find a landing spot in 2024. Which is good, because it's too late to find a solid landing spot.

His best bet would be to consider offers to become an assistant head coach, for a team with a young head coach.