Steve Wilks named Defensive Coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers

Steve Wilks gets golden opportunity as new 49ers DC
from Victor Barbosa, with

Steve Wilks landed his next NFL job, and it could be a prime opportunity to catapult him back toward a head-coaching position.

Robert Saleh spent four years as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020 before becoming the man in charge with the New York Jets ahead of the 2021 season. DeMeco Ryans was promoted to take over Saleh’s vacant post and was just hired as the Houston Texans head coach last week.

Wilks was named the Carolina Panthers interim head coach after Matt Rhule was fired following a 1-4 start to the 2022 campaign, and despite seeing the organization trade away superstar running back Christian McCaffrey and others, he led Carolina to a 6-6 record to finish 7-10 and nearly make the playoffs. Wilks was among the finalists for the permanent lead gig in Charlotte, but the job ultimately went to Frank Reich.

It was reported last week that some players in Carolina thought owner David Tepper made the wrong choice.

After being passed over by the Panthers, Wilks released a classy statement, but attorneys for the 53-year-old also released a statement saying they were “shocked and disturbed” with the decision and “there is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.” The same firms represent Wilks as a co-defendant in former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ suit against the NFL over racial discrimination.

While his only season as an NFL head coach didn’t go well (a 3-13 campaign in 2018 with the Arizona Cardinals), Wilks has loads of other experience. Following nearly 10 years in the college game (including time with defensive coaching positions with Division I schools), Wilks joined Washington as the secondary coach in 2005 before serving as the defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears (2006-2008), Chargers (2009-2011) and Panthers (2012-2014).

He was Carolina’s associate head coach from 2015 to 2017 before his one year in Arizona. Wilks then served as the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator in 2019 and had the same job with the University of Missouri in 2021 before rejoining the Panthers in 2022.