The Arizona Cardinals, who have been searching for Bruce Arians replacement for nearly a month, announced the hiring of former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as the team’s new head coach.
Wilks, 48, signed a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year, and was welcomed during the team’s Jan. 23 press conference at its Tempe training facility.
“This is not really a rebuild, this is a retool,” Wilks said. “We have the culture of winning here. We just have to be able to sustain it. It’s all about trying to get to the next level and the consistency you need to get to the next level. I believe building a culture based on three things: trust, commitment and accountability.”
Wilks said during the press conference he is committed to being with the Cardinals as long as they want him and is expecting hard work from his players as he prepares to build his game plan.
“Before you start talking about any scheme – offense, defense, special teams – you have to have that trust,” Wilks said. “That commitment, every day walking into this building, is about getting better today than we were yesterday. There is no entitlement, not from me, not from any of those players.”
He is working on filling his staff and hopes to have it completed in the next week or two.
Panthers current head coach Ron Rivera knew Wilks would get a head coaching job in the NFL.
“I knew that (Wilks) is a hot commodity, deservedly so,” Rivera said in a press release. “He has done a tremendous job wherever he’s been, starting in Chicago and San Diego and down here with us. It’s going to be a tough one to replace because he helped build this team (Carolina).”
Wilks played defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987 to 1991 and played one season with the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League (1993), before beginning his coaching career in 1995 at Johnson C. Smith College (N.C.) as defensive coordinator.
He spent the past six seasons with the Panthers and was the team’s defensive coordinator. He was named assistant head coach last season, leading the defense to the seventh best defense in the NFL. He has been a coach for 23 years, including the last 12 as an NFL assistant with Carolina, Chicago, Washington and San Diego.
“In our research, they talked about what a passionate coach (Wilks) is on the field and what a terrific leader he is,” team president Michael Bidwill said. “Players love playing for him.”
Players were excited for the hiring, as Patrick Peterson said on social media, “I love it!” and other players commented on the hiring.
“Coach Wilks brings an energy to the room and he takes pride in getting to know his players on a personal level and I think that helps him be a great leader and motivator,” said Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. “He’s a great coach and we will miss having him around, but I think he is going to do a great job for the Cardinals.”
Current Baltimore Ravens player Eric Weddle, who played for Wilks in San Diego, said “Coach Wilks was meant to be a head coach. He is a leader of men, loyal and honest. One of the best coaches I’ve ever had and even a better man.”