Sources – 49ers promote Sorensen to DC add Staley to

Sources – 49ers promote Sorensen to DC, add Staley to staff

  • Sources – 49ers promote Sorensen to DC add Staley to.png&h=80&w=80&scale=crop

    Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer March 2, 2024, 7:47 a.m. ET


      Nick Waggoner is an NFL reporter for ESPN. Nick has been covering the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL at ESPN since 2016, after previously covering the St. Louis Rams for 12 years, including three years (2013-2015) at ESPN. In his 10 years with the company, Nick led ESPN's coverage of the Niners' 2019 Super Bowl run, the Colin Kaepernick protest, the Rams making Michael Sam the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL , Sam's subsequent quest for a squad spot and the team relocation and stadium saga. You can follow Nick on Twitter @nwagoner

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – After a focused search for internal and external candidates, the San Francisco 49ers have their new defensive coordinator. And that's not the only significant addition to the team's coaching staff.

Sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeremy Fowler on Saturday that the Niners are promoting Nick Sorensen, the team's defensive passing specialist and nickel cornerbacks coach, to defensive coordinator, a role left open by the Feb. 14 firing of Steve Wilks stayed. The team is also expected to hire former Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley as associate head coach, according to sources.

At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week, 49ers general manager John Lynch said the team was in “no rush” to hire a coordinator, but reiterated what coach Kyle Shanahan said when announcing Wilks' firing that San Francisco doesn't want to drift away from what it has done defensively over the last seven years.

Editor favorites

  • Sources – 49ers promote Sorensen to DC add Staley to.jpg&w=130&h=130&scale=crop&location=center

“We know who we are, who we will be, and this will not result in a fundamental change in the scheme,” Lynch said. “We feel good where we are.”

Lynch's words seemed to indicate the likelihood of an internal hire, as one reason for Shanahan's move from Wilks was his difficulty adjusting to the defensive system San Francisco had used in recent years under former coordinators Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans.

With Sorensen, the Niners should be able to maintain the continuity sought by Shanahan and Lynch. Although this will be Sorensen's first time as a coordinator, he has been with the Niners since 2022, when he joined the team as a defensive assistant. In his second season, he was promoted to defensive passing game specialist and took charge of the nickelbacks.

Sorensen's previous duties with the Niners included leading the team's weekly meeting called “The Ball,” which focuses on winning the turnover battle.

Prior to arriving in San Francisco, Sorensen spent the 2021 season as the special teams coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Previously, Sorensen was an assistant special teams coach, assistant defensive backs coach and secondary coach with the Seattle Seahawks for eight years (2013-20).

Sorensen's collaboration with Pete Carroll in Seattle was perhaps most valuable considering the Niners run a version of that defensive system that focuses on an attacking front four paired with mostly zone coverage on the back end.

With Staley, the 49ers add another experienced voice to their team. As associate head coach, Staley would replace Anthony Lynn, who left San Francisco after two seasons to become running game coordinator and running backs coach for the Washington Commanders.

Staley spent the last two or more seasons as the Chargers' coach, but before that was the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020 and previously worked as an outside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears (2017-18) and Denver Broncos (2019).

While Staley's defensive background is schematically different than what the Niners do, Lynch said in Indianapolis that wouldn't stop Staley from being a potential addition to the team.

“He’s a really smart guy,” Lynch said. “We are open-minded, but we know that there are certain basic principles that we will always be on the defensive side. … I wouldn’t exclude him because of that.”

Along with Sorensen, Staley was one of five known interviews for the defensive coordinator job. The Niners also spoke with secondary coach Daniel Bullocks, Kansas City Chiefs defensive line coach Dave Merritt and Las Vegas Raiders safeties coach Gerald Alexander.