San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is headed to the Houston Texans as their next head coach. It’s a move that’s long been expected, but couldn’t have been made official until San Francisco’s season came to an end.

Once the 49ers fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, the writing was on the wall.

San Francisco now needs to find another defensive coordinator to replace a man in Ryans who led the No. 1 unit in the NFL this past regular season. For head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co., whoever is brought on will be the 49ers’ third defensive coordinator in four years. Below, we look at four options to man that all-important position.

San Francisco 49ers hire Steve Wilks

The San Francisco 49ers have already put in a request to interview Wilks for their defensive coordinator opening. Wilks served as the Carolina Panthers’ interim head coach last season folowing the firing of Matt Rhule. He led the team to a surprise 6-6 record and is one of the most-respected defensive minds in the game.

Wilks, 53, began his NFL coaching career with Washington back in 2005. He served as the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears (2006-08) and then-San Diego Chargers (2009-11) before joining Ron Rivera’s staff with the Carolina Panthers. Getting someone experienced to run this side of the ball could be key for Kyle Shanahan and Co.


Brian Flores heads to Northern California

This one almost makes too much sense. Also a candidate for head coach openings around the league, Flores is among the most-respected defensive minds in the game. Sure his ongoing lawsuit against the NFL complicates things. But it’s now clear that teams are willing to overlook that.

Flores worked under Bill Belichick with the New England Patritos from 2004-18 before taking over as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach in 2019. Despite a lack of talent on defense, the 2020 Dolphins finished yielding the sixth-fewest points in the NFL.

After being fired by Miami, Flores worked closely with another respected head coach in that of Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh last season. He’d be an ideal fit for the San Francisco 49ers.