It sounds bizarre to say eight games into the season, but new 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks in on the hot seat.
That doesn’t mean Wilks getting fired during the bye week is a legit possibility. Even with San Francisco’s defensive struggles the last three weeks, that would be a shocking development. But the 49ers defensive unit looks like a shell of itself, and has people asking what needs to be done.
One suggestion is that Wilks should spend game day on the sideline instead of in the booth. Previous defensive coordinators Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans were on the sidelines for games, and there’s an idea that it might improve communication between the players and Wilks as far as adjustments are concerned.
49ers broadcaster Tim Ryan thinks it might be worth trying as he detailed on Monday morning.
“I would not mind seeing the coordinator on the sideline,” Ryan told Murph & Mac on KNBR. “The only reason I say that is the coordinators do a good job from the box — Dan Quinn comes to mind right away in Dallas — but this defense, just go back to the Minnesota game, and some of the things they were trying to do different and weren’t working from a defensive structure standpoint in terms of the coverage.”
Ryan talked through a hypothetical conversation that could happen in-game with Wilks on the sideline.
“He’s sitting down there with Johnny Holland and his linebackers coach: ‘Johnny this isn’t working…We’ve got to try something else. I’m telling you every time we line up in this, they’re slow delaying running the hook in this spot,’ whatever. Fred gets all that…This is a veteran defense that’s played in a lot of big games and won a lot of big games. When Saleh and DeMeco are down on the sidelines, they’re going to come up and say what’s going on.
“Not only can they hear your thought process and their opinion, they can also feel it; they can sense the urgency of it,” Ryan continued. “I think just being able to have something tangible that he can touch down on the field, that’ll help.”
Fingers are being pointed at Wilks for two reasons: 1) he had a very obvious gaffe in calling an all-out blitz at the end of the first half vs. Minnesota that led to a touchdown, and that subsequently led to Kyle Shanahan calling out the play call after the game. 2) the 49ers defense is extremely talented, and Wilks is the one variable that has changed since last season.
Still, the unit was fantastic through the first five games of the season, so there is reason to believe they can right the ship with Wilks.
“I’m definitely not in the fire Steve Wilks camp,” Ryan concluded. “They will get it right, they just got to figure out how to get it right.”
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