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49ers choose not to hire the Chiefs’ Dave Merritt as defensive coordinator, per report

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By: John Dixon

Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kansas City’s defensive backs coach had interviewed for the San Francisco position.

On Saturday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported two changes to the San Francisco 49ers’ coaching staff.

One is that they have decided to hire former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley to a “prominent staff role.” The other is that the team has decided to promote their defensive passing game specialist Nick Sorensen to defensive coordinator.

This move is of interest to Kansas City Chiefs fans for two reasons.

The first is that Sorensen is taking the place of Steve Wilks, who was fired after the 49ers’ 25-22 loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII. With Kansas City holding the ball on a second-and-6 from the 49ers’ 37-yard line in the overtime period, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan used a timeout after Wilks had called an all-out blitz.

“Yeah, I didn’t like the look they were in — and one of our players looked a little gassed,” Shanahan told San Francisco reporters on the following Tuesday, per “I didn’t think I was going to use them all right there. So I thought it’d be a good time to use one.”

The very next day, Wilks was fired.

“It says nothing about Steve as a man or a football coach. He’s exactly what we wanted as a man — and he’s a great football coach,” said Shanahan of Wilks’ release, per The Mercury News. “But just where we’re going and where we’re at with our team from a scheme standpoint — and looking through the year to the last few years — this is a decision that was best for our organization.”

While it’s satisfying to suggest that quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense might have played a role in the firing of the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, Sorensen’s hiring as Wilks’ replacement is also important for a different reason: it means that the 49ers decided against hiring Chiefs’ defensive backs coach Dave Merritt, who interviewed for the defensive coordinator job earlier this week.

The 52-year-old coach has now won his fifth Super Bowl ring (two of them as an assistant coach with the New York Giants), having joined the Kansas City staff before the 2019 season. He has, of course, played a key role in developing former Chiefs defensive backs like Charvarius Ward, Juan Thornhill and Rashad Fenton — along with free agent L’Jarius Sneed and current young stars like Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook, Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams and Chamarri Conner.

It now appears that Merrittt — and almost all of head coach Andy Reid’s assistants — will be back for 2024. Asked by Chiefs Digest reporter Matt Derrick about potential coaching changes while speaking to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Reid noted only that outside linebackers coach Ken Flajole has decided to retire from coaching. The 69-year-old Flajole is hanging up his whistle after a 26-year NFL coaching career with eight different teams.

Originally posted on Arrowhead Pride