Steve Wilks

49ers' Wilks shares bluntly honest response to recent criticism

NBC Universal, Inc.

Steve Wilks is no stranger to adversity, and the 49ers defensive coordinator is leaning on past experience to help him navigate San Francisco's recent rough stretch.

The 49ers' defense hasn't played up to its expectations under Wilks, whom San Francisco hired this past offseason to replace DeMeco Ryans. But after three straight losses, Wilks refuses to hit any sort of panic button.

"I can honestly say I'm sort of built for this," Wilks told reporters Thursday of recent criticism thrown his way. "Not in an arrogant way, but I've always believed it's two things: It's what you hear and what you listen to. So, I hear a lot of the outside noise. I don't listen to it, good or bad. As you mentioned, I've been doing this for a while and I understand the emotions of this game and what we play at this level. I try not to be emotional. We're five and three, the standard is so high here, right, [and] we lost three in a row, that everybody feels like the ceiling is collapsing on us.

"We're in a good position. We need to turn it around. We’ve got a lot of football ahead of us. We want to start progressing, get better in November and start playing our best in December. I've seen this, I've been around this, I can take it. I'm the new guy in. It is what it is. I have confidence in myself. Most importantly I have confidence in those players and the coaches that we're together and we're going to come through this.” 

It's no surprise that Wilks remains unfazed by his critics. His stoic demeanor is a stark contrast to the excitable Ryans and his predecessor Robert Saleh, who became well-known for their sideline celebrations while coaching the 49ers' defense.

Wilks has coached the 49ers' first eight games from the coaches' booth, but on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he'll be down on the sideline. The move had less to do with on-field antics than it did with streamlining San Francisco's communication between its defenders and its coordinator.

As the 49ers look to turn things around in Week 10 after their bye, the defense is searching for its identity. And like San Francisco, which won five straight games to start the season, Wilks has experienced the highest of highs the NFL has to offer along with the lowest of lows.

He was fired from the Arizona Cardinals' top job after only one season when he coached the team to a league-worst 3-13 record in 2018, just three seasons after reaching the Super Bowl as assistant head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Wilks went on to last one season as DC for the Cleveland Browns, coached defense for a year at Mizzou and then returned to the NFL with the Panthers last season before joining the 49ers in 2023.

Given all he has seen, Wilks prefers to look ahead -- and believes the 49ers' defense has what it takes to get out of this rut and contribute to a win.

"You know, I try to stay out of the past," Wilks told reporters. "When I say that, the obvious is the obvious, but dwelling on the past three weeks is not going to really change what we're trying to get done. And our focus been since we've been back it's just one at a time. Let's just go refocus ourselves to do what we’ve got to do to get this game. I think we know in the previous games we were there, we played hard. We’ve got to go execute. We’ve got to make plays when given the opportunity.

"I’ve got to do a better job again just putting them in better positions, which I think is going to help them go execute."

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast

Contact Us