NCAA Football: Senior Bowl
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The Jets defensive coordinator is receiving some steam as the week goes along.

The San Francisco 49ers are set to announce their next defensive coordinator soon, according to a report from The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, potentially erasing their biggest domino off the board heading into NFL Combine week.

While the 49ers have been mum about their process, with no official interviews being announced, there are several potential options that could make sense, given their connection to head coach Kyle Shanahan and familiarity with the defensive style.

Among the options? New York Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who has been in his role since the 2021 season.

Ulbrich’s background

Ulbrich joined the New York Jets in 2021 as the team’s defensive coordinator, being added to the staff when Robert Saleh was hired as the team’s head coach.

While Saleh has been known for his defensive efforts, Ulbrich has been in a coordinator role for several seasons, which is something that head coach Kyle Shanahan may be coveting with his next hire.

Prior to joining New York, Ulbrich spent six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, initially starting as the team’s linebackers coach in 2015, which was his role through the 2019 season.

In 2020, Ulbrich earned a promotion, as the assistant head coach title was tagged along to his responsibilities, while he was named the defensive coordinator midway through the season when head coach Dan Quinn was fired and Raheem Morris was named the interim.

While with the Falcons, Ulbrich overlapped with head coach Kyle Shanahan from 2015-16, when the latter was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator.

Ulbrich’s history runs deep, as he was a former NFL player for the 49ers from 2000-09.

Upon retiring, he began his coaching career as a special assistant under Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks from 2010-11 before going to the college ranks as the linebackers and special teams coach from 2012-13.

During his time at UCLA, Ulbrich earned an assistant head coach role to his responsibilities, and was the defensive coordinator in 2014 under head coach Jim Mora.

Ulbrich’s fit

Spending time under Pete Carroll, Dan Quinn, and Robert Saleh, Ulbrich has significant experience with coaches that specialize in certain parts of the scheme that San Francisco wants to run.

After hiring a guy from outside the building without the coveted experience in San Francisco’s scheme last season, head coach Kyle Shanahan needs to nail this hire, which means that comfortability with the system and the players will be key.

Additionally, hiring Ulbrich would mean a return to prioritizing the front seven as Saleh was a defensive line coach prior to being a coordinator while DeMeco Ryans was a linebackers coach for the 49ers.

Ulbrich has extensive experience as a linebackers coach, having served in the position both in the college ranks and at the NFL level.

Add in his experience with Kyle Shanahan and he fits all the bells of what San Francisco is looking for with their next defensive coordinator.

While I wouldn’t call Ulbrich a home-run hire, the move definitely makes sense, and could be one that San Francisco gravitates to with a number of top options already settled up at their current destinations.

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