49ers' Hunt for New Defensive Coordinator: Surprise Contender Emerges! - footballivenews
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49ers’ Hunt for New Defensive Coordinator: Surprise Contender Emerges!



The San Francisco 49ers’ quest to fill their defensive coordinator position has led them back to Super Bowl LVIII territory.

Dave Merritt, currently the defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, emerges as the fourth confirmed candidate in the 49ers’ search. This pursuit follows the team’s overtime defeat to the Chiefs on February 11 in Las Vegas, a loss that prompted head coach Kyle Shanahan to part ways with Steve Wilks just three days later, ending Wilks’ one-season tenure.

The news of Merritt’s candidacy was initially reported by Mike Garafolo of NFL Media and confirmed by a league source. Shanahan has also held interviews with former Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley and 49ers pass-game specialist Nick Sorensen, alongside considering secondary coach Daniel Bullocks as an internal option.

Merritt, aged 52, has been instrumental in coaching the Chiefs’ defensive backs since 2019. Notably, he played a role in the development of Charvarius Ward, who joined the 49ers in free agency two years ago and earned Pro Bowl honors this season.

Beginning his coaching career after a stint as a linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals from 1993 to 1995, Merritt boasts an impressive resume with five Super Bowl rings as a defensive assistant, including two with the New York Giants (2014-17) and three with the Chiefs (2019-23). Interestingly, Merritt served as a defensive backs coach in 2018 for the Arizona Cardinals, under the helm of Wilks.

While Merritt, Sorensen, and Bullocks lack experience as NFL coordinators, Staley brings prior experience as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2020 before assuming the head coaching role with the Chargers. However, Staley was relieved of his duties last season after a 5-9 start.

Shanahan, now on the hunt for his fourth defensive coordinator in five seasons, has witnessed Robert Saleh (2017-20) and DeMeco Ryans (2021-22) depart for head coaching positions with the New York Jets and the Houston Texans, respectively.

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