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

3/2/2024 2:27:14 PM
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After a deliberate search involving both 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, Nick Wagoner of ESPN reports.

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

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 he announced Wilks' firing that San Francisco didn't want to stray far from what it has done defensively for the past seven years.

"We know who we are, who we're going to be, and that's not going to make a wholesale schematic change there," Lynch said. "We feel good about where we're at."

Lynch's words seemed to point to the likelihood of an in-house hire given that one reason Shanahan moved on from Wilks was his struggles to adapt to the defensive scheme San Francisco had used in previous years under former coordinators Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans.

In Sorensen, the Niners should be able to retain the continuity Shanahan and Lynch have sought. Although this will be Sorensen's first time as a coordinator, he has been with the Niners since 2022 when he joined the staff as a defensive assistant. In his second season, he was promoted to defensive pass game specialist and put in charge of the nickelbacks.

Sorensen's previous duties with the Niners have included running the team's weekly meeting called "The Ball," which puts an emphasis on winning the turnover battle.

Before his arrival in San Francisco, Sorensen spent the 2021 season as the Jacksonville Jaguars' special teams coach. Before that, Sorensen was assistant special teams coach, assistant defensive backs coach and secondary coach for eight years (2013-20) with the Seattle Seahawks.

Sorensen's history working with Pete Carroll in Seattle was perhaps most valuable considering the Niners run a version of that defensive scheme, which is focused on an attacking front four paired with mostly zone coverage on the back end.

In Staley, the 49ers are adding another experienced voice to their staff. As assistant head coach, Staley would replace Anthony Lynn, who left San Francisco after two seasons to become the run game coordinator and running backs coach of the Washington Commanders.

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