49ers to hire former Panthers interim coach as defensive coordinator

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The San Francisco 49ers are hiring Steve Wilks, the former Carolina Panthers interim coach, as their new defensive coordinator, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. The person requested anonymity because the deal has not been announced.

Wilks, 53, will take over one of the best defenses in the NFL as he replaces DeMeco Ryans, one week after Ryans was hired as the Houston Texans head coach.

Wilks was a finalist for the Panthers’ head coaching job after nearly leading the team to the NFC South title, compiling a 6-6 record after Matt Rhule was fired in October.

Instead, Panthers owner David Tepper hired Frank Reich, the former Indianapolis Colts coach, to lead his team.

After Carolina’s decision, Wilks shared this statement on Twitter, “I’m disappointed but not defeated. Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through.”

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In San Francisco, Wilks will continue running a 4-3 defensive scheme that has helped the 49ers reach the NFC title game in three of the last four seasons. They lost in the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2019 season.

The 49ers, under head coach Kyle Shanahan, fell short against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC championship game this season.

Wilks, who went 3-13 in his lone season as Arizona Cardinals head coach in 2018, has spent his coaching career coaching defenses in college and at the NFL level.

The 49ers defensive coordinator job could be a springboard for Wilks. The past two 49ers coaches to hold that position, Ryans and Robert Saleh (New York Jets), are now head coaches.

NFL Network first reported the 49ers’ plans to hire Wilks.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY