Nick Sorensen is the 49ers’ new defensive coordinator, and Brandon Staley is the newest member of the coaching staff.
The 49ers have promoted Sorensen to the coordinator role while giving Staley a role on the defensive staff as well, according to ESPN.
Sorensen has been an assistant in San Francisco the last two years. Last year his title was defensive pass game coordinator and nickels coach. He’s being promoted to replace Steve Wilks, who was fired as defensive coordinator after the 49ers lost the Super Bowl.
Sorensen is becoming a defensive coordinator for the first time. He has previously been special teams coordinator in Jacksonville and a defensive backs coach in Seattle. He also played defensive back in the NFL for 10 years, spending time with the Dolphins, Rams, Jaguars and Browns.
Staley was fired as head coach of the Chargers in 2023, after two and a half seasons on the job. He has previously been a defensive coordinator for one season, with the Rams in 2020.
Three decades after the NFL started putting speakers in quarterbacks’ helmets so they could hear the coaches’ play calls, college football may follow suit.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee proposed a rule that would allow one player to have a speaker in his helmet to hear his coaches.
“In games involving Football Bowl Subdivision teams, each school would have the option to use coach-to-player communications through the helmet to one player on the field. That player would be identified by having a green dot on the back midline of the player’s helmet,” the NCAA proposal says. “The communication from the coach to the player would be turned off with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock or when the ball is snapped, whichever comes first.”
The rule will become official for the 2024 season if it is approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which meets on April 18.
College football coaches have been saying for years they’d like to have the same technology as the NFL, but the issue came to a head in 2023 when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended amid allegations that his team broke NCAA rules to steal signs.
Harbaugh is now head coach of the Chargers, where his voice will be go directly into Justin Herbert’s helmet. That’s become such an ordinary part of the NFL that it’s barely discussed anymore. It may be a new element of college football in 2024.
The 2023 season was a dud for the Chargers as a team and it ended with quarterback Justin Herbert in street clothes because of a right index finger injury that ended his season with a few weeks left to play.
A bid for better results in 2024 got underway with the hiring of head coach Jim Harbaugh and continued with the addition of General Manager Joe Hortiz, but the topic of what went wrong the last time around came up when Herbert made an appearance on the Chasin’ It podcast. Herbert wasn’t able to put his finger exactly on the reasons why the Chargers fell so short, but he did say that he thinks going through such a rough year will make the Chargers better in 2024.
“I don’t know if I could just put it into one word,” Herbert said. “That’s kind of a tough question and I think there’s a lot that goes into a year. It’s one of those things we have to be better. We have to learn from these mistakes and sometimes you have to go through things like that to know better and to learn and to grow from that and no one wants to experience a season like that. I know that we’re going to be better because of it. The guys in that locker room are going to be tighter together, we’re going to be closer and we know what we need to fix now. Paired up with his new coaching staff, these guys what we bring in, I know that we’ll be focused and dialed in for this year.”
It remains to be seen just how many people from last year will be back as the Chargers have cap issues to contend with going into this season, but Herbert is hoping the bad taste in mouths helps lift the team back up the standings.
In Joe Hortiz’s first press conference as the Chargers General Manager, he said he liked that he was going to a team with a strong head coach in Jim Harbaugh, a strong quarterback in Justin Herbert, and strong ownership.
Hortiz also inherited a messy salary cap situation. The Chargers got a bit of a reprieve when the cap was set at over $255 million for the 2024 season, but they are still projected to be over that number when the new league year begins and they have four high-priced veteran stars who could be part of the solution.
Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams join edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack with cap hits of more than $30 million and Hortiz said at a Tuesday press conference that the team is still working through the best way to handle everything.
“We’re still working through it,” Hortiz said, via Kris Rhim of ESPN.com. “Obviously, the salary cap got bumped up a little bit higher than I think everyone was expecting — a little bit more. It gives us, certainly, some flexibility a little bit. We’ll continue to talk through that over the next couple of weeks and have a plan of attack shortly.”
The Chargers have the No. 5 pick in the draft to use to bolster an area that might get weakened as they make cap cuts to put together the first roster under Hortiz and Harbaugh in Los Angeles.
The last remaining coordinator job in the NFL is close to being filled.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area that he “should finish it all up this week” in hiring a defensive coordinator.
The 49ers have completed interviews with former Chargers head coach Brandon Staley and 49ers defensive passing game specialist Nick Sorensen, Shanahan told Maiocco.
The 49ers are replacing Steve Wilks, who was fired on Feb. 14 after only one season as defensive coordinator.
49ers defensive backs coach Daniel Bullocks also is expected to interview for the position later in the week, and Shanahan told Maiocco that he likely will interview two additional external candidates later this week.
Staley, 41, spent two seasons and 14 games as the Chargers’ head coach before the team fired him during the 2023 season. He went 24-25, including 0-1 in the playoffs. The Chargers hired Staley in 2020 after he spent one season as Sean McVay’s defensive coordinator with the Rams.
Sorensen, 45, joined the 49ers’ staff in 2022 as a defensive assistant before his promotion to to defensive passing game specialist/nickel backs coach last year. He was the Jaguars’ special teams coordinator in 2021.