May 25, 2024

Why the 49ers made a mistake as defensive coordinator.

The San Francisco 49ers head coach put an end to rumors last week when they promoted defensive pass game coordinator and nickels coach Nick Sorensen to defensive coordinator, hoping to fill the vacuum internally after hiring Steve Wilks last offseason.
In addition to promoting Sorensen, the 49ers recruited Brandon Staley, a former Los Angeles Charger, as a defensive specialist after interviewing him for defensive coordinator.
Last season, after several interviews, the 49ers hired former Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks, who brought a defensive back history to San Francisco, a first for the defensive coordinator post.

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While the 49ers’ interceptions increased, the defense suffered as the season ended, which carried over into the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
In fact, it appeared that the 49ers were going to move on from Wilks regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl, highlighting the rift between him and Kyle Shanahan, as well as among the players.
Now, the 49ers have done an excellent job of moving on when a fit, whether with a player or a coach, isn’t working, as they did with Wilks.
However, they made a mistake at defensive coordinator last offseason, and their hire of Sorensen this week just compounds the error.

When the 49ers hired Wilks last summer, they were searching for a shift in mindset from their new defensive coordinator while also avoiding internal possibilities.
San Francisco’s most recent hire, linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans, was an internal decision who proved to be an excellent one, overcoming some early blunders to become the league’s top defensive coordinator, earning him a head-coaching position with the Houston Texans last summer.
San Francisco 49ers projected offensive depth chart 2023

Now, the key with Ryans was patience; the 49ers defensive coordinator admitted to some early issues, which he accepted responsibility for, before settling into his role as the season went on.
Then, during his second season as defensive coordinator, Ryans’ progress was obvious: he had mastered disguising coverages and ordering well-timed blitzes for a squad that loved to rush with only four down linemen.
As a result, the 49ers’ defense in 2022 was the league’s best in several key categories, propelling them deep into the playoffs once more, despite facing two different quarterback changes in the middle of the season.

Overall, Ryans was able to learn from his mistakes and find his groove as a first-time playcaller, resulting in a successful 2022 season and a head-coaching position.

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