Skip to main content

Steve Wilks Works to Elevate No. 1 Overall Defense in 2023

Following the end of the 2022 season, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan found themselves in search of a defensive coordinator for the third time in their six-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers.

With the turnover at the DC position, the 49ers were hoping to establish some continuity with their next hire through a shared defensive philosophy and a player's coach mentality. San Francisco's defense is built around the belief that everything starts up front with a formidable defensive line.

It didn't take long before Lynch and Shanahan landed on the then interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers, Steve Wilks, as the right guy for the job.

"Steve's got presence and we recognized that right away. He's got a willingness," Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We were just the No. 1 defense in football, so we don't want to make wholesale changes, so we needed somebody who had a similar vision on how we play the game."

The 49ers also checked all the boxes for Wilks.

"For my next move, I wanted to connect myself with an organization that I felt was solid, had a great culture and great leadership from top to bottom," Wilks said.

"From afar, you see great things happening here with the 49ers. Having the opportunity to come here on my interview, I see why. Just meeting Jed (York), the entire York family, Kyle and John, they're so united and so collaborative in the things they are doing. I said, 'Man this is a perfect fit for me.'"

Wilks, with 27 years of coaching experience under his belt, inherits a nearly intact coaching staff from the 2022 campaign, the league's reigning No. 1 overall defense and AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

"You have committed individuals, as I've said before. There are no egos in that room," Wilks commented. "There is definitely no ego with me. I'm coming in trying to embrace what we've done in the past, which has been a lot of great things."

While continuity remains key, there is plenty of room for Wilks to add his own flair to the league's top defensive unit.

"I don't want to be a defense that is going to sit back and react to the offense," Wilks said. "I want to be aggressive and have those guys react to us. I want to dictate the momentum of the game."

Off the field, Wilks has been working diligently to establish new bonds with his players throughout the offseason.

"It starts with building relationships. I think that's a key thing with everything we do in life," Wilks said. "I think it's great to have other things to talk about outside of football. Family is important to me, and I talk to these guys about their families and their relationships away from the game."

The next time Wilks will be out on the field with his new defensive unit will be in late July for the start of training camp as the team comes back in full force for the 2023 season.

Related Content