49ers DC Steve Wilks moving from booth to sideline for now

Nov 9, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: 8:24 am

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks of the San Francisco 49ers with the defense in the locker room du...

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Coming off of their bye week, the 49ers are instituting a few changes moving forward. New players, earlier practice times and a move down to the sideline for Steve Wilks. 

San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan revealed Wednesday that the team’s defensive coordinator will be moving from the booth to the sideline on gamedays for the time being. The change comes after the pair discussed the pros and cons of doing so, determining that, for now, Wilks will be down on the field with the rest of the team.

“We’re going to put him on the field this week. Something we’ve talked about for a little bit. I think there’s pluses to it and minuses to it, but we’ll see what we like about this week,” Kyle Shanahan said about the change Wednesday.

Steve Wilks has been under heavy scrutiny the last month of the season. The 49ers’ defense is a big reason why the team is currently on a three-game losing streak, allowing 300 or more total yards in each of the last three contests.

While the organization is content with Steve Wilks at the moment, this is clear indication that his defensive gameplan has not been working. So for at least Week 10, the coordinator will be closer to his players for enhanced communication.

“Just because of the some of the stuff you do in the box, all the advantages to it, which are great, but I kind of want him to be down and be near our players a little bit,” Shanahan explained. “They’ve had that more just with the linebacker communication in the past. I want him to be down there so he can talk to guys a little bit more.”

Before Wilks, both Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans called defensive plays from the sideline for the 49ers. The now head coaches led San Francisco’s defense to the top of most defensive metrics the last few seasons.

Meanwhile, Wilks’ unit has been lackluster, among the bottom five in run defense in the NFL. The two seasons prior: First and second against the run.

San Francisco hopes the move can reestablish the spark between the playcaller and defense moving forward, with Steve Wilks having a direct line to his players.

But, the move is temporary for now, as Shanahan understands the advantages to calling games from the booth. In fact, he prefers to do it that way himself.

“I love being in the box. I think that’s the best spot. I feel like you guys would judge me too hard if I went up there. If it ever gets cold enough, I might be. I like a chair and a desk and a lot of stuff to write down and things like that. I had to do this for nine years before I got here. I was only in the box one year, my last year, so it was eight on the field before that. There’s pluses and minuses to both, so you usually go with your preference,” he said.

The 49ers will need any and every advantage this week, going on the road to face the AFC-South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars.

Upcoming San Francisco 49ers Schedule

  • Sunday, November 12th @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 10:00 AM PST
  • Sunday, November 19th vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 1:05 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 23rd @ Seattle Seahawks – 5:20 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 3rd @ Philadelphia Eagles – 1:25 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 10th vs. Seattle Seahawks – 1:05 PM PST

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