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49ers defensive struggles can’t be overlooked this offseason

Whoever Kyle Shanahan hires as defensive coordinator will have his work cut out for him.

Obviously, the focus this offseason will be on the offensive side of the ball. Kyle Shanahan’s top task is to coach the 49ers to a somewhat respectable offense at the very least. But the defensive side of the ball was also a mess a season ago. It’s arguably in worse shape than the offense in many respects.

At this point, only a couple defensive coordinator candidates have emerged, and they’re all linked to Shanahan. In other words, the 49ers will likely be giving somebody their first crack at defensive coordinator.

I’d be worried about a young coach bringing in someone who isn’t proven as a coordinator to coach the other side of the ball in most cases. But with Shanahan, the guy’s entire life has been about football. His roots run deep and he has the connections he needs to have.

If Shanahan brings in Robert Saleh, linebackers coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, or someone else like Brian Flores or any number of candidates, then it will be a decision made based on years of his own experience. Then again, Shanahan cleared the hiring of John Lynch when the latter called him up and recommended himself for the job.

The 49ers ranked last in the league in yards allowed, including the 14th-ranked pass defense and last-ranked rush defense. They also ranked dead last in the league in points allowed per game, allowing a staggering 30.0 points per game. No other team hit 30, or even 29 points allowed per game.

NaVorro Bowman was injured and that’s worth considering, and the 49ers were starting some young pass-rushers on the defensive line. But the 49ers were simply a mess on that side of the ball and whoever Shanahan brings in will certainly have his work cut out for him.

Is there any candidate out there that particularly excites you? I feel any realistic hire at this point wouldn’t move the needle in any significant way. Shanahan will likely hire someone he knows, for better or for worse. Let’s hope it’s the former.