Steve Wilks

NFL Attempts To Move Brian Flores Lawsuit To Arbitration

The latest development in the ongoing legal dispute between Brian Flores and the NFL is a notable, if unsurprising, one. The league formally requested a federal court send the matter to arbitration, as detailed by Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic

The move was widely expected, as the NFL clearly stated its intentions of doing so much earlier in this process. As its filing indicates, arbitration is the “preferred venue” for the league to settle disputes such as this one. It argues that little precedent exists for courts to handle the internal matters of sports leagues, which, it further states, is the purview under which Flores’ bribery allegations against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (along with his other claims) should fall.

The league is also attempting to get former coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – who joined Flores’ suit as co-plaintiffs in April – to “sever their cases and file separate arbitration claims.” Just as those decisions come as little surprise, so to does the response made by Flores himself.

“With forced arbitration, my case will be litigated behind closed doors, confidentially and without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he said in March, knowing arbitration would be a strong possibility. Given the scope of his allegations made against the league in general, and the Dolphins, Texans, Giants, Broncos (and, after the addition of Wilks and Horton, the Cardinals and Titans), public proceedings would understandably be the plaintiff’s preferred avenue.

Flores was hired by the Steelers as the team’s linebackers coach in February, less than a month after his lawsuit was filed. Kaplan notes, however, that his contract has yet to be formally signed off by commissioner Roger Goodell, something which is standard practice for NFL employment contracts. He adds that the pact “had a minor adjustment [made to it] shortly before the filing, but nothing that will hold it up.”

As a busy offseason for the league continues with respect to off-the-field issues, this legal battle could take a notable turn in the near future if its move for arbitration is allowed to go through. Even in that event, this appears set to remain a significant storyline.

Steve Wilks, Ray Horton Join Brian Flores’ Lawsuit; Allegations Made Against Cardinals, Titans

Two additions have been made to the class-action lawsuit filed by Brian Flores. Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks and former NFL staffer Ray Horton have joined the suit, making allegations against the league, but also the Cardinals and Titans, respectively. 

As first reported by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Wilks’ allegations stem from his time as head coach of the Cardinals. The 52-year-old held that title for one year, the 2018 season. As the new complaint details, Wilks “was hired as a ‘bridge coach’ and was not given any meaningful chance to succeed” (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). It adds that Wilks “was unfairly and discriminatorily” fired after the team went 3-13.

Central to that point is the fact that general manager Steve Keim was away from the team during the preseason leading up to that campaign as a result of a DUI, and has since been given a contract extension. As Florio notes, Wilks also preferred the team trade up to draft Josh Allen that year; it was with the Cardinals’ ultimate selection, Josh Rosen, that Arizona and Wilks had that losing season. The allegation details how his replacement, Kliff Kingsbury, “has been given a much longer leash” during his tenure alongside Kyler Murray, despite the former’s lack of NFL experience and college success.

Horton, 61, alleges that in 2016 he participated in a “sham interview” for the Titans’ head coaching position. He had previously been the defensive coordinator of the team for two seasons, but they hired Mike Mularkey. As noted by the complaint, the latter had already been told he would be hired before the “fake” process of interviews (including with Horton, to satisfy the Rooney Rule) began, and stated as much in a recent podcast interview (audio link via Pro Football Focus’ Ari Meirov). Horton most recently coached in Washington in 2019.

In the aftermath of these developments, Flores (who has himself made changes to his complaint), Wilks and Horton have made brief statements (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler). Both the Cardinals and Titans have rebuffed the assertion that their respective decisions were discriminatory.

Coaching Notes: Wilks, Bills, Dolphins, Bears, Broncos

Steve Wilks is back with the Panthers. The team announced that they’ve hired the veteran coach as their new defensive pass game coordinator/secondary coach.

Wilks played for the Carolina franchise during his stint in the AFL, and his first coaching gig was at a nearby college. Of course, Wilks also worked for the Panthers, starting as a defensive backs coach before working his way up to assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.

The 52-year-old had a brief stint as the Cardinals head coach in 2018 before moving on to Cleveland as the Browns defensive coordinator in 2019. Now, he’s back in Carolina, replacing now-Raiders defensive pass-game coordinator Jason Simmons.

More coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • The Bills have a new special teams coordinator, as the team announced the promotion of Matthew Smiley. The veteran coach has spent the past five years in Buffalo, serving as assistant ST coach. Per the team’s announcement, Smiley played a significant role in the development of kicker Tyler Bass and returner Andre Roberts. Smiley will replace Heath Farwell, who will be joining the Jaguars coaching staff.
  • Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel will be retaining special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter). Crossman has been with the Dolphins since 2019, and he earned a promotion to assistant head coach in 2021. The 55-year-old previously served as the ST coordinator with the Bills, Lions, and Panthers.
  • Matt Eberflus continues to add to his coaching staff. The Bears announced that they’ve hired Tim Zetts as their assistant tight ends coach and Omar Young as an offensive quality control coach. The two coaches both have connections to the Packers franchise. Meanwhile, Charean Williams of writes that the Bears also hired David Walker as their new running backs coach. The 52-year-old last coached in 2018.
  • Ben Steele will be the Broncos new assistant offensive line coach, per Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter). Chris Kuper, who previously served in the role, has been let go. Steele will report to Butch Barry, who is the full-time OL coach.

Giants Interview Steve Wilks For DC

Another name has been added to the list of defensive coordinator candidates for the Giants. As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writesSteve Wilks has interviewed with the team to fill Patrick Graham‘s vacated position. 

[Related: Giants Interview Jim Schwartz For DC]

Wilks becomes the fifth coach with DC experience to be linked to the Giants. After spending more than a decade in the college ranks, his NFL coaching career began in 2006 with the Bears. The role of defensive backs coach he held there for three seasons is the same he subsequently had with the Chargers and Panthers. In 2017, he got his first DC gig with Carolina, which also came with the title of assistant head coach.

One year later, the 52-year-old became a head coach for the first time at the pro level with the Cardinals. His one season in the desert didn’t go according to plan, however as the quarterback tandem of Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen was underwhelming to say the least. With a 3-13 record, Wilks was fired at the end of the campaign. He returned to life as a coordinator in 2019, serving as the Browns’ DC for one season. After one year out of coaching, he held that same title at Missouri in 2021.

Jim Schwartz interviewed with the Giants on the weekend, as the team continues to cast a wide net of experienced coaches to replace Graham. They had also previously met with Teryl Austin, as well as Don Martindale and Sean Desai for the position.

Redskins Offered Steve Wilks Staff Role

After six years with the Panthers, Steve Wilks went through one-year stints with the Cardinals and Browns the past two seasons. The Browns made him a finalist for their 2020 defensive coordinator job but opted not to retain him for a second season, going with Joe Woods instead.

Wilks does not intend to coach this year, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required), but he had at least one opportunity with a former coworker and perhaps two.

Ron Rivera offered Wilks the Redskins’ assistant HC/secondary job, Person adds, also noting Wilks met with Dave Gettleman about a Giants role. Gettleman and Wilks worked together for five years in Carolina. Washington then went with Chris Harris, who spent the past four seasons as the Chargers’ assistant DBs coach, to lead its secondary.

Wilks, 50, has coached in the NFL for 14 straight seasons. He joined Rivera’s Panthers staff in 2012 and finished that tenure as Carolina’s defensive coordinator in 2017. Wilks was a college assistant from 1995-2005. But the former head coach will wait until the 2021 hiring period to get back in the game. The Cardinals are still paying Wilks, having signed him to a four-year deal in 2018 before firing him after that season.

Browns Down To Steve Wilks, Joe Woods For Defensive Coordinator

New Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is considering keeping Steve Wilks in his role as defensive coordinator while also considering former Broncos DC Joe Woods. The Browns are down to Wilks and Woods for the job, Jim Trotter of tweets.

This news comes a day after Wade Phillips and ex-Vikings DC George Edwards were believed to be in the mix. But Stefanski looks to have since narrowed the field. He and Woods worked together for eight years in Minnesota, with Woods coaching the Vikings’ defensive backs from 2006-13 — Stefanski’s first eight years with the franchise.

Wilks has spent one season as Browns DC, coming over after a one-and-done tenure as Cardinals head coach. Woods, who replaced Phillips in Denver as Broncos DC in 2017, is currently serving as the 49ers’ pass-game coordinator and secondary coach.

Freddie Kitchens brought Wilks over from Arizona. The Browns improved from 30th to 22nd defensively from Gregg Williams but dropped from 18th to 23rd in defensive DVOA. Wilks, 50, also oversaw the Panthers’ defense in 2017, being promoted after a five-year run as Carolina’s secondary coach.

Woods received the same promotion in Denver, with the Broncos opting to let Phillips walk in 2017 to elevate Woods. While Woods’ two Broncos defenses were solid, the 49ers’ rise from 23rd to second in pass-defense DVOA has obviously been key to the NFC No. 1 seed’s success. The 49ers’ Richard Sherman-led secondary has become a much better unit compared to last season, when Sherman did not play at a Pro Bowl level. Woods also oversaw the Broncos’ dominant No-Fly Zone secondary that helped the team to a championship in 2015, working under Phillips. Woods, 49, has a chance to collect a second Super Bowl ring and may ride that momentum into another DC job.

Staff Notes: Rams, Cards, Bengals, Pats

The Rams will bring in Wade Phillips‘ son to be part of their offensive staff. Wes Phillips will move from the nation’s capital to Los Angeles, with Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio reporting (on Twitter) the former Redskins tight ends coach will take over that position with the Rams. This move was rumored prior to Super Bowl LIII, and it will come to fruition. The father-son tandem has not been on the same staff since Wade’s days as Cowboys head coach. Wes Phillips’ move west will likely coincide with Rams tight ends coach Shane Waldron focusing on his duties as passing game coordinator and Jedd Fisch shifting to quarterbacks coach.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Elsewhere in the NFC West, the Cardinals continued to add new assistants. Kliff Kingsbury‘s staff will include Charlie Bullen as assistant linebackers coach and Peter Badovinac, Bob McManamon of the Arizona Republic notes. Bullen spent the past seven seasons with the Dolphins, serving as a defensive assistant throughout the Joe Philbin and Adam Gase tenures. Bullen and new Cardinals DC Vance Joseph worked together in 2016. Badnovinac will follow Kingsbury from the college ranks, moving to Arizona after stays at Missouri State and Ohio State. Badnovinac accepted a graduate assistant position at Oklahoma recently but will begin his first NFL job instead. The Cardinals also hired Spencer Whipple and Rob Grosso as quality control coaches.
  • While the Rams are hiring their defensive coordinator’s son, the Patriots are expected to add the son of former executive Mike Lombardi. Mick Lombardi is expected to be one of Bill Belichick‘s new hires, according to’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter). The Patriots employed the younger Lombardi from 2011-12; he served as the Jets’ assistant quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. New England just lost assistant QBs coach Jerry Schuplinski to Miami.
  • Steve Wilks received interest from teams aside from the Browns but scheduled the Cleveland summit first because that was his top choice, according to McManaman. The one-and-done Cardinals coach is now the Browns‘ DC, coming to Cleveland after receiving a substantial buyout from his four-year Cards contract.
  • The Bengals looked to the local high school ranks for a staffer, hiring Cincinnati Moeller head coach Doug Rosfield to become the assistant to Zac Taylor, per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Rosfield spent 11 total seasons at Moeller. In between those stays, he worked as the University of Cincinnati’s director of player development for three years.

Coaching Notes: Kaczor, Redskins, Panthers, Goodwin

The Redskins announced yesterday that they’ve hired Nate Kaczor as their new special teams coordinator. The long-time coach had interviewed with the organization earlier this week.

“We are excited to have Nate join our staff. We have had the opportunity to face his special teams play during his time at Tampa Bay and respected competing against him,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “He is a competitor and we have noticed and admired the intensity his units have played with through the course of his time as a special teams coordinator and assistant coach in the NFL.”

Kaczor had spent the past three seasons in the same role with the Buccaneers, and he previously served as the Titans’ special teams coordinator. He also had a stint as an assistant with the Jaguars. Prior to his tenure in the NFL, Kaczor spent 17 years in the NCAA, with jobs at Idaho and Nebraska-Kearney.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Panthers owner David Tepper told reports that he didn’t want to “make rash decision[s]” on the status of head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney (via Joe Person of The Athletic on Twitter). Ultimately, the owner judge the duo throughout the entire 2018 season (not just the stretch run), and this led to him retaining the pair for the 2019 season.
  • Buccaneers assistant head coach Harold Goodwin wasn’t happy that Steve Wilks lost his job with the Cardinals, noting that his friend never got a chance to succeed. “That hurt a little bit,” Goodwin told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “He’s a friend of mine. We worked together back in the day with the Bears. It’s hard to build something from the ground up with one year. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want you to start this Fortune 500 company, but you’ve got one year.’ That’s impossible. And that’s what he was tasked with.”
  • Goodwin also grumbled about the lack of minority hires around the NFL, noting that teams really don’t take the Rooney Rule seriously. “Every time I went in to interview, ‘You don’t call plays.’ Well, I did call plays in the preseason,” Goodwin said. “Are we looking for play-callers or are we looking for leaders? Leaders of men, who can help build an organization from the ground up on the football side…The next excuse was, ‘Well, we don’t like your staff.’ A lot of my staff is still coaching. Some guys are coordinators in the NFL now that have had a lot of success that were on my list.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Cardinals added another name to their offensive coordinator search, as former Browns head coach Hue Jackson is scheduled to interview for the gig.

Browns Hire Todd Monken, Steve Wilks

The Browns’ coaching staff is officially set. On Monday, the Browns officially announced the hiring of Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator and Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator. In addition to those hires, the club appointed Mike Priefer as special teams coordinator, Stump Mitchell as the running backs coach/run game coordinator, James Campen as offensive line coach/associate head coach, and Ryan Lindley as quarterbacks coach.

Monken has a reputation for savvy play calling, even though Buccaneers’ offense was inconsistent in 2018. The Bucs didn’t consider him as a potential replacement for head coach Dirk Koetter, but other clubs were eager to talk with him. The Bengals, Packers, and Jets all interviewed him for their head coaching vacancies and several clubs showed keen interest in bringing him on as their new OC. Ultimately, Monken chose the Browns, who offer tremendous potential and a potential star quarterback in Baker Mayfield.

Wilks was one-and-done as the Cardinals’ head coach after the team limped to a 3-13 record. His defense did not perform up to par in Arizona, but he built a reputation for himself as a smart defensive mind in Carolina. In his six seasons with the Panthers (five as defensive backs coach, one as DC), the club finished with a top 10 defense five times.

Browns To Hire Steve Wilks As DC, Todd Monken As OC

Steve Wilks wasn’t out of work long. The recently fired Cardinals head coach will be joining the Browns as Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Just moments later, Rapoport reported in a separate tweet that Todd Monken would be joining the Browns as their offensive coordinator.

While Rapoport the deal for Wilks isn’t quite done yet, he writes that the two sides are “close on a deal and it should be done tomorrow.” Things came together quite quickly for Freddie Kitchens’ staff, and the coaching staff now has a lot of star power. Wilks was fired by the Cardinals after just one season after the team limped to a 3-13 record.

Monken received a lot of praise for his work as the Buccaneers’ play caller this season, but wasn’t retained after head coach Dirk Koetter was let go. Monken used a creative, downfield oriented passing offense with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his offensive philosophy would seem to mesh well with Kitchens’.

Monken received some head coaching buzz and interviews this cycle, but obviously didn’t land a gig. The Lions and Packers were reportedly interested in talking to him about their offensive coordinator vacancies, but Monken clearly was intrigued by the prospect of working with Baker Mayfield. He also interviewed with the Jaguars a few days ago.

We heard a couple days ago that the Browns were working to bring in Wilks, so this isn’t a surprise. Wilks’ lone season as a head coach clearly didn’t work out, but he was highly regarded as a coordinator with the Panthers before that.