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49ers HC Kyle Shanahan on if DC Steve Wilks will return for 2024 season: 'I expect all our coaches to be back'

When asked about the past performance and future employment of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan gave a blanket statement about his coaching staff.

"I haven't talked to anybody yet," he said when asked a follow-up question on Wilks' future after an unclear first response. "So yeah, I expect all our coaches to be back."

That presumably includes Wilks, although Shanahan declined to go into specifics about any assistant coach in particular.

The 49ers lost Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, 25-22, in a game where the defense played well for most of the game but folded late. The Chiefs scored only one touchdown in regulation, and it came off a muffed punt deep in San Francisco territory. It was even more impressive, considering Dre Greenlaw suffered a torn Achilles midgame, and Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave were playing through injuries.

But on the final possession of regulation and the first series of overtime, the 49ers' defense couldn't stop eventual Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes from doing enough -- a few times with his legs -- to lead them to victory late.

Nick Bosa told reporters on Tuesday that he thought the 49ers "could've been more prepared" for Mahomes as a runner in the read-option game, as he had two key conversions late.

"You kind of have to anticipate Mahomes wanting to have the ball in his hands," Bosa said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "We played plenty of read-option teams, so we have the answers for it. But it's tough when you play a team like that that can beat you in all kinds of different ways. It ended up being very big few moments where they did pull it out. We'll learn from it."

On one key possession late in overtime, Shanahan called timeout with the Chiefs facing a second-and-6 from the San Francisco 37-yard line. It appeared as if Shanahan didn't like the all-out pressure look Wilks was prepared to give the Chiefs.

"Yeah, I didn't like the look they were in, and one of our players looked a little gassed," Shanahan said. "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."

On the whole, however, Shanahan appreciated the job his defense did this past season, even with some bumps in the road -- including in the two playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl.

"I thought they were one of the reasons that we got this far," Shanahan said. "I thought they did a number of good things. They did a lot of good things in that game too. Just like our whole team. Our team did a bunch of good things this year but came up short in the last game."

49ers general manager John Lynch agreed with Shanahan on Tuesday, adding: "I was really proud of our defense and the way they competed in this last game. I think that looked like I envisioned it looking. We were getting after them."

Now the question becomes how much next year's 49ers defense looks the same. From the sound of it, Wilks and the rest of the defensive staff could be back next season to try to finish what they started in 2023.

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