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49ers request permission from Panthers to interview Steve Wilks for defensive coordinator job

DeMeco Ryans was hired as the Houston Texans' next head coach on Tuesday, and San Francisco is now searching for his replacement.

NFL Network insider Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday the 49ers have requested permission from the Panthers to interview Steve Wilks for their defensive coordinator role, per a source.

Wilks remains under contract with the Panthers after finishing the 2022 season as the team's interim head coach. The 53-year-old led the Panthers to an impressive 6-6 record after the firing of Matt Rhule, which put Wilks in consideration for retaining the title for 2023 and beyond. That scenario vanished last week once Carolina decided to hire former Colts head coach Frank Reich .

Ryans emerged as a top head coaching candidate this hiring cycle after directing a dominant 49ers defense the past two seasons. San Francisco boasted the NFL's best defense in 2022, leading the league in yards allowed per game (300.6), points allowed per game (16.3) and turnover differential (13).

Wilks would be an ideal candidate for the 49ers defense now that Ryans has left for Houston. The longtime defensive coach was the mind behind a Carolina defense that was the catalyst to its surprising turnaround this past season.

San Francisco apparently recognizes that a respected leader would be a great fir for a defense that will be largely held together in 2023.

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