Replacing DeMeco Ryans may be the hardest and most important thing the 49ers will do in the off-season. Their defensive coordinator for the past two years has been the head coach of the Houston Texans, leaving a huge gap over the #1-ranked San Francisco defense.
While the 49ers defensive line is highly talented, Ryans’ tactical brilliance and leadership have seen him rapidly rise through the NFL coaching ranks. They also made him the NFL’s Defensive Coordinator of the Year in his first year on the job.
The 49ers’ defense will very likely be the tip of the pike for the team again in 2023, so finding a good defensive coordinator will be critical to their continued success. They’ve already asked for a couple of interviews, but a handful of other semi-interesting names remain:
The 49ers ask to interview the veteran coach, who oversaw the Panthers’ season-ending playoff push as their interim head coach. He’s been in the NFL since 2006, and he’s one of very few people available who might be able to replace Ryans as the captain of San Francisco’s very talented defense.
There are conflicting reports about Fangio’s availability, but the former DC ’49ers would make a lot of sense if Shanahan wanted to go down a more experienced route. The big question here is whether the 49ers would be willing to change their scheme to the 3-4 Fangio they usually post.
Harris is another person the 49ers asked to interview. He falls into the mold of Robert Saleh or Ryans because he has no experience yet as a coordinator. It’s been done twice so far for the 49ers, so it would make sense for them to try going that route again.
Eveiro could get a head coaching job on this course. If not, he is arguably the best defensive coordinator available after helping build a very good Broncos defense in his first year as coordinator in 2022. Denver is 14th in points and 7th in yards.
There is no real indication that the 49ers are interested in making Kocurek their hometown, nor is there any indication that he is interested in a promotion. He’s been sensational as a defensive line coach at San Francisco, and his leadership ability may make him a good candidate for the head job.
The 49ers don’t seem to be looking at home for DC, but Undlin has experience. The problem is, his experience was pretty disastrous. Undlin has been a pass defensive play specialist at the 49ers since 2021, becoming their secondary coach in 2022. While that went well, his first stint as defensive coordinator came with the Lions in 2020 as they finished last in points and yards. It’s hard to imagine it would be more than an option of last resort.