Replacing DeMeco Ryans might be the toughest and most important thing the 49ers will do this offseason. Their defensive coordinator of the past two years has taken over as head coach of the Houston Texans, leaving a gaping hole atop San Francisco’s No. 1-ranked defense.
While the 49er’s defensive group is highly talented, Ryans’s schematic brilliance and leadership have made him quickly rise through the NFL coaching ranks. They also made him perhaps the best defensive coordinator in the NFL in his first year on the job.
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It’s very likely that the 49er’s defense will be the tip of the team’s spear again in 2023, so finding a good defensive coordinator will be paramount to their continued success. They’ve already requested a few interviews, but a handful of other at least semi-intriguing names linger:
The 49ers are requesting an interview with the veteran coach, who oversaw the Panthers’ late-season playoff run as interim head coach. He’s been in the NFL since 2006 and is one of the few people available who might be able to replace Ryans as the leader of a very talented San Francisco defense.
There are conflicting reports on Fangio’s availability, but the former 49ers DC would make a lot of sense if Shanahan wants to take a more experienced route. The big question here is whether the 49ers would be willing to change their 3-4 scheme that Fangio typically deploys.
Harris is another person the 49ers have requested an interview with. He falls into the mold of a Robert Saleh or a Ryans in that he has no experience as a coordinator yet. It’s worked twice so far for the 49ers, so it would make sense for them to try going that route again.
Evero could very well land a head coaching job this cycle. If he doesn’t, he’s arguably the best defensive coordinator available after helping build a very strong Broncos defense in his first year as coordinator in 2022. Denver finished No. 14 in points and No. ° 7 in yards.
There is no real indication that the 49ers are interested in making Kocurek their DC, nor any indication that he is interested in a promotion. He was, however, sensational as a coach of San Francisco’s defensive line, and his ability to lead could make him a good candidate for the position of leader.
It doesn’t look like the 49ers are looking for a DC internally, but Undlin has experience. The problem is that his experience was quite disastrous. Undlin has been the defensive passing game specialist for the 49ers since 2021, and he became their secondary coach in 2022. While that went well, his only stint as defensive coordinator came with the Lions in 2020 where they are ranked last in points and yards. It’s hard to imagine it would be more than an option of last resort.