The 49ers’ defensive collapse late in the Super Bowl was the last straw that has drawn the firing of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who was shown the door despite the Niners being the third-best defense in the league over the season.

You could feel some in-team dissent brewing in the immediate aftermath of the San Francisco 49ers’ 25-22 Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chefs. When the Niners’ star pass rusher Nick Bosa did his postgame interviews Sunday night, he noted that “We could have been more prepared there. We have to know in crucial situations who is going to have the ball, and obviously it’s [Patrick Mahomes]. He had a scramble down the middle on that last drive.”

“We could have been more prepared there.” That is not a ringing endorsement of the coaching staff. And 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan telegraphed something was up by calling an unexpected press conference at 12 noon Wednesday afternoon.

At that press conference, Shanahan announced that defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was being fired, as CBS Sports reports. This was Wilks’s first season as 49ers defensive coordinator, after the previous and very popular defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was poached to become the Houston Texans head coach immediately after last season, and the also very well-liked Robert Saleh ascended from his role as defensive coordinator to become New York Jets head coach two years before. Wilks never seemed to gain the level of trust from 49ers players, or Shanahan, that Ryans and Saleh did.

Sharp-eyed observers noticed one moment in that ill-fated Super Bowl overtime that indicated Shanahan had lost trust in Wilks. With the Chiefs lining up on one play of that winning drive, Wilks had called a formation with five players — nearly half the defense — lined up past the first down marker, which could have allowed for an easy first down.

“Five guys up there,” CBS analyst Tony Romo said at the time. “All the way back there as if you’ve got an extra… I think Kyle didn’t like it. He goes, ‘No. no. no.’ No offense, this is what he’s telling Steve: I don’t want to go cover-zero, because you feel like you’ve got to come after him here. Give me a different play.”

Yes, the 49ers allowed the third-fewest points of any defense in the league this season under Wilks. But there were other signs of tension between Shanahan and Wilks this season. In a late October loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Shanahan gave Wilks an unusual public repudiation about one play, telling reporters “he knows he messed up on that call," and “he lost track.” When the 49ers lost to the Bengals the following week, Shanahan forced Wilks to move from an upstairs booth to the sidelines.

The 49ers could hire internally for a new defensive coordinator. Or freshly fired but still very good former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel could be an option. And heck, Bill Belicichick is still unemployed and sitting out there…

Related: 49ers Can Only Lick Their Wounds, Hope Their Championship Window Isn’t Closing [SFist]

Image: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 11: Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks of the San Francisco 49ers reacts during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)