49ers DC Candidate Pilloried Kyle Shanahan’s Offense Before Interview

On Wednesday, it was reported that Chiefs defensive backs coach Dave Merritt, who had a brief NFL career in the 1990s and has been a defensive assistant for four different NFL teams in the last 24 years, interviewed for the vacant 49ers defensive coordinator job. But perhaps things got awkward.

Kyle Shanahan is looking for a 49ers defensive coordinator.

First, the interview. That was reported by NFL Media’s Mike Garofolo, who wrote on Twitter/X, “The #49ers are interviewing #Chiefs defensive backs coach David Merritt for their defensive coordinator position, sources say. Merritt, a longtime trusted assistant for Steve Spagnuolo, helped coach up KC’s fourth-ranked pass defense this season.”

Of course, those defensive backs did an outstanding job in shutting down the  49ers in the Super Bowl. That’s where things get awkward.

Merritt went back to North Carolina—he grew up in Raleigh and played for North Carolina State—last week (H/T broadcaster Chase Snyder) and pretty well pointed out that Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers offense deserved a lot more blame for the Super Bowl loss than defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, the guy Merritt would be replacing.

49ers Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Was a Poor Fit

Appearing  “The Sports Shop” show on 99.3 The Buzz radio in Raleigh, Merritt suggested that Wilks—whom he said he has known for decades, and worked under with the Cardinals in 2018—is actually happy to have been fired. He suggested 49ers fans should be happy the team lost, too, because it gave coach Shanahan the go-ahead to fire Wilks.

It’s been reported that players on the defense were not happy with changed Wilks made last year. Merritt said there were issues between the 49ers and Wilks well before the team’s Super Bowl loss.

“When you look at what happened, there was something festering obviously before the Super Bowl,” Merritt said. “And I say that because the worst thing that could have happened for the 49ers, and I hate to say that for the 49ers fans out there, is for them to have won that and then Shanahan would have been forced to keep him if the players are disgruntled with things they were growing through.

“Wilks, even himself, is looking at this as a blessing.”

Dave Merritt: SF Offense Lost Super Bowl

But then Merritt began to trade some awkward ground. He pointed out that the offense was truly to blame for the 49ers loss, and brought up some stats to reflect that. Why were the 49ers so bad on third down? Why did George Kittle barely touch the ball? Why was Brandon Aiyuk (whom Merritt called, ‘Ako’) shut out?

Merritt aired out all those issues to a public audience. No word on whether he brought them up to Shanahan, who would be his boss with the 49ers, and who was responsible for the disjointed San Francisco offense in Las Vegas.

Said Merritt: “You know what? I understand, you guys want to go in a different direction. But if you want to base it clearly off the game, that’s not the case and we all know that. There’s always something behind a marriage if it’s not going well, it doesn’t just happen overnight. But if you want to talk about the game, their offense went 3-for-12 on third down. Our offense went 9-for-19, but if your offense is going 3-for-12, is that Wilks’ fault?

“If your tight end, who’s All Pro, Kittle, only has one catch for four yards, is that Wilks’ fault? I mean, so therefore you can feed McCaffrey all you want to, he needs help. And then, No. 11, who was trying to fight all game, uh, Ako, whatever. He only had 40-something yards, was that Wilks’ fault? I just say that, there was something going on before.”

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