Replacing DeMeco Ryans might be the hardest, most important thing the 49ers will do this offseason. Their defensive coordinator for the last two years took a job as the Houston Texans’ head coach, leaving a gaping hole atop San Francisco’s No. 1-ranked defense.
While the 49ers’ defensive group is very talented, Ryans’ schematic brilliance and his leadership made him a fast riser in the NFL coaching ranks. They also made him perhaps the NFL’s best defensive coordinator in his first year on the job.
It’s very likely the 49ers’ 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 couple 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 push as their interim head coach. He’s been in the NFL since 2006, and is one of very few people available who might be able to replace Ryans as a leader of a very talented San Francisco defense.
There are conflicting reports about Fangio’s availability, but the former 49ers’ DC would make a lot of sense if Shanahan wants to go a more experienced route. The big question here is whether the 49ers would be willing to change their scheme to the 3-4 Fangio typically deploys.
Harris is another person the 49ers have requested an interview with. He falls into the mold of a Robert Saleh or Ryans in that he’s yet to have any experience as a coordinator. It’s worked out twice so far for the 49ers, so it would make sense if they try to go that route again.
Evero could very well land a head coaching job in this cycle. If he doesn’t though, he’s arguably the top available defensive coordinator after helping construct a very good Broncos defense in his first year as a coordinator in 2022. Denver finished No. 14 in points and No. 7 in yards.
There’s no real indication that the 49ers are interested in making Kocurek their DC, nor is there any indication he’s interested in a promotion. He’s been sensational as San Francisco’s defensive line coach though, and his ability to lead could make him a good candidate for the lead job.
It doesn’t appear the 49ers are looking in-house for a DC, but Undlin has experience. The problem is his experience was pretty disastrous. Undlin has been the 49ers’ defensive pass game specialist since 2021, and he became their secondary coach in 2022. While that’s gone okay, his one stint as a defensive coordinator came with the Lions in 2020 where they ranked last in points and yards. It’s hard to imagine he’d be more than a last-resort option.