Steve Wilks

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Working To Hire Steve Wilks As DC

New Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens appears prepared to make the first major hire to his coaching staff. The team is working on a deal to hire former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks as the team’s defensive coordinator, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets

Just earlier today, it was reported Wilks, who served one season as Arizona’s head coach, was expected to interview for the position. He apparently won over the new Browns head coach, and the two sides are working to finalize an agreement.

Wilks, 49, went 3-13 in his one season with the Cardinals before he was fired late last week. Despite the poor record, the coach had the support of the players, including Larry Fitzgerald, who advocated for his return. Before going to Arizona, Wilks served as Carolina’s defensive coordinator and assistant head coach in 2017, helping the team rank No. 7 in yards allowed (317.1) and tied for 10th in points surrendered (20.4).

The Browns will not have to adjust to a new defensive scheme, as Wilks employs the same 4-3 unit that Cleveland has used for the last two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Interview Steve Wilks, Interested In Steve Spagnuolo

The Browns are interviewing former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks for their open defensive coordinator position on Friday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Cleveland also has interest in former Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo and could meet with him in the near future, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Cleveland is searching for a new defensive play-caller after new head coach Freddie Kitchens dismissed Gregg Williams earlier this week. Given that he’s handling the offense, Kitchens would likely give his new DC great autonomy. As a former head coach, Wilks would be ready for that responsibility, and despite his lack of success in the desert, his 2017 Panthers defense played extremely well, ranking seventh in DVOA.

Wilks is unlikely to reunite with Carolina, tweets Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. There’d been some thought that Wilks would head back to the Panthers after his sole season with Arizona, but that won’t be happening. Carolina is retaining DC Eric Washington, while head coach Ron Rivera will call the team’s defensive plays.

Spagnuolo, meanwhile, didn’t coach in 2018, but is highly respected around the NFL for his work as the Giants’ DC. The 59-year-old also comes with head coaching experience, as he led the Rams from 2009-11.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reactions To Cardinals Hiring Kliff Kingsbury

The Cardinals reached by hiring Kliff Kingsbury, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic opines. Kingsbury satisfies the team’s desire for a young and innovative offensively-minded coach, but his lack of NFL experience is cause for alarm in Somers’ view.

Steve Spurrier, for example, fell on his face as an NFL coach and Chip Kelly‘s luck ran out after his first two years with the Eagles. Some could argue that Kingsbury is a hire in the Sean McVay mold, but as Somers notes, McVay spent nine years as an NFL assistant before landing the Rams gig.

Here’s more on the Cardinals and Kingsbury:

  • Per the terms of his contract at USC, Kingsbury owes the school a $150K buyout to resign and take the Cardinals head coaching job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. There was much discussion about the buyout being a barrier to an NFL deal, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep him from joining the pro ranks. In all likelihood, the Cardinals will pick up the tab for that.
  • Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill didn’t like former coach Steve Wilks’ plan for the future, as Jonathan Jones of Sports Illustrated writes. “Looking at his plan for 2019 I just didn’t feel like it was a plan that I wanted to get behind,” Bidwill said. With that said, its unclear whether Bidwill actually discussed Wilks’ future plans in depth before firing him on Dec. 31. It’s also curious that he feels more secure in Kingsbury’s five-year plan given that he has never coached in the NFL.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals, the Buccaneers agreed to hire former Cards coach Bruce Arians on Tuesday night. The Cardinals claimed that they still hold Arians’ rights (even though he retired in 2017), so they were able to finagle a small amount of draft capital out of Tampa Bay.

Cardinals Fire Steve Wilks

The last expected move has been made official, as the Cardinals have fired head coach Steve Wilks, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN (Twitter link). 

The team showed a lot of fight in their Week 17 game against the Seahawks but came up short, and it ultimately wasn’t enough to save Wilks’ job. Wilks ended up lasting just one season in Arizona. While being a one and done is rare, it’s certainly not unheard of, and Wilks’ fate was sealed with a 3-13 record. Arizona’s season was doomed from the start, as it was clear right from the get-go that Sam Bradford didn’t have anything left in the tank. Bradford was benched for Josh Rosen, and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired shortly thereafter.

The firing of McCoy did nothing to spark the offense, and Rosen showed little progress during his rookie year, which was likely one of the determining factors in Wilks’ firing. Wilks came to Arizona after a successful year as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, and has always been well liked by players.

It’s been heavily rumored that the Panthers will have a staff shakeup on defense, and Joe Person of The Athletic tweets that he would “be very surprised” if Wilks doesn’t return to Carolina in some fashion. The Wilks firing makes eight openings across the league, and it will likely be the last firing barring any late surprises.

The Cardinals have been linked to a number of coaches, including Mike McCarthy, and are seemingly interested in hiring an offensive mind to pair with Rosen. They also were reportedly impressed with Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores during last year’s cycle, and with Flores set to be one of the top available candidates, could be interested again. At this point it appears that GM Steve Keim, also rumored to have been on the hot seat, has been spared.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Wilks, Cardinals, Goodell, Haskins, Draft

As the season has gone on, it’s become clear that Steve Wilks faces increasingly long odds of being retained by the Cardinals for a second season. Wilks drew rave reviews during his one season as Panthers defensive coordinator, but Arizona’s season has been disastrous right from the get-go, and it was reported by Adam Schefter yesterday that the team was planning to move on. Larry Fitzgerald and other players have expressed support for the embattled coach, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough. In an interesting piece, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN recently took a look at the arguments both for and against firing Wilks.

Weinfuss lists the concerning lack of progress from Josh Rosen as one compelling reason to make him a one and done, as it doesn’t appear Wilks and his staff have done a good job developing him or putting him in position to succeed. As far as reasons for keeping him, Weinfuss lists some injuries, bad offensive coaching from the fired Mike McCoy, and the summer suspension of GM Steve Keim that kept the two from collaborating on the roster. Mike McCarthy is reportedly interested in the job, and it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. We should know Wilks’ fate for certain by next Monday.

Here’s more from around the league on Christmas Eve:

  • It’s been rumored that Roger Goodell’s latest contract extension, signed in December of 2017, could be his last, and now we have news of a possible successor. The league recently “created a new title for rising executive Christopher Halpin”, and he’s considered “a frontrunner to take over as commissioner” once Goodell eventually steps down by many within the league, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Goodell faced some rare public criticism from owners in the wake of the anthem controversy and other issues, but has always managed to maintain a tight grip on the league.
  • Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been one of the fastest rising NFL draft prospects this season, and he recently received a first round projection from the NFL’s college personnel advisory board, league sources told Chris Mortensen of ESPN (Twitter link). Haskins finished third in the Heisman voting after a sensational first year as a starter, and has a very good chance to be the first quarterback taken this April, if not the first overall pick. He hasn’t formally announced one way or the other, but Haskins is widely expected to declare for the draft following the Buckeyes’ bowl game.
  • Speaking of the draft, Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch announced he was leaving school early and declaring for the draft via Twitter. Dortch caught 89 passes for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns this year, and was one of the best players in the ACC. In addition to being a very talented receiver, he was also a first team All-American as a punt returner. While he’s a bit undersized at only 5’9, he should have a good shot to go early in the draft if he tests well in Indianapolis.

 

 

Cardinals Expected To Fire Steve Wilks

It has been rumored for some time now, but the Cardinals are indeed expected to fire head coach Steve Wilks at the end of the season, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Wilks was one of the hottest names on the head coaching circuit last year, but his first — and presumably last — season as Arizona’s HC has been a disaster, and the club is planning to move on.

The Cardinals have limped to a 3-11 record this season, and as is the case with many struggling teams, they have had to deal with a fair amount of turmoil this year (from offensive coordinator Mike McCoy‘s firing to Patrick Peterson‘s trade request). Arizona’s defense has graded out as an average unit per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric — and to give credit to Wilks, defense is his specialty — but the club’s offense has been abysmal, and the team’s performance overall has not inspired much hope that things will get better anytime soon.

For what it’s worth, though, Wilks does appear to have the support of his team. Cardinals legend and surefire Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald may not even be with Arizona next season, but he told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com that he and all of his teammates would want Wilks to return. Fitzgerald said, “[w]e all would want him back. I love Wilks. Great dude. We all play hard for him. That’s the team — not me alone — speaking on it.”

Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com agrees with Fitzgerald, tweeting that Arizona coaches and players think Wilks should get a chance to come back in 2019.

And in the piece linked above, Rapoport suggests that owner Michael Bidwill has not made a firm decision one way or another. If he does bring Wilks back, however, Wilks would be expected to make significant staff changes, which he would be willing to do. Since Wilks was the last head coach to be hired this year, there were fewer viable assistants to choose from.

Of course, GM Steve Keim‘s job also remains in jeopardy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Lauletta, Lee, Cards, Koetter

We learned earlier today that Eli Manning is increasingly likely to remain with the Giants in 2019, and the fact that New York does not presently have a legitimate replacement on its roster is a big reason for that. Indeed, although the team selected Kyle Lauletta in the 2018 draft and repeatedly indicated it wanted to give him some game action this year, Lauletta’s first appearance in a regular season NFL game — during garbage time in last week’s blowout win over the Redskins — did not go well. Lauletta has now been demoted to the team’s No. 3 QB, where he spent most of the season, and he is inactive for the club’s game today. As Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com suggests, that move speaks volumes about where Lauletta is in his development.

Let’s round up a few more NFC items as the Week 15 early afternoon games get underway:

  • Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is active today for the first time since November 5 and will play a reserve role behind rookie phenomenon Leighton Vander Esch, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Lee still provides value when healthy, but Jane Slater of the NFL Network tweets that Lee told the team he did not want to start and interfere with Vander Esch’s progress. It remains to be seen how Lee will be deployed moving forward.
  • At the beginning of this month, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said the Cardinals were going to reassess their front office and coaching staff at the end of the season, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reaffirms that report today. JLC writes that Arizona is mulling sweeping changes, and some sources say it would be a “major surprise” if first-year head coach Steve Wilks keeps his job. The bigger question, according to those sources, is whether GM Steve Keim is retained, but if he is not, he is a strong candidate to join the Raiders‘ front office.
  • The Buccaneers are expected to move on from head coach Dirk Koetter at the end of the season, but La Canfora writes that Koetter is still highly-respected as an offensive coordinator and plenty of teams with OC vacancies this offseason will be pursuing him to fill that role. Koetter’s own OC in Tampa, Todd Monken, will also be a highly-coveted offensive coordinator candidate in 2019 assuming the Bucs cut ties with him.
  • The Eagles remain committed to Carson Wentz, and Nick Foles is expected to hit free agency in 2019.
  • Jay Gruden‘s future with the Redskins is uncertain, but Alex Smith is out of the hospital and there is optimism that he will be able to resume his playing career.

West Notes: Cardinals, Wilks, Taylor, Gordon

We learned at the end of November that Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks is very much on the hot seat less than one year after being one of the hottest head coaching candidates on the market. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms as much today, reporting that Arizona will reassess its entire football operations and coaching staff at the end of the 2018 campaign (video link). Rapoport says all options are on the table, including dismissing both Wilks and GM Steve Keim, keeping both, or keeping one and not the other. Wilks’ fate will depend in large part on whether the 2-9 Cards continue to play hard for him down the stretch.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • If Wilks does get the boot, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that current Jets head coach Todd Bowles could return to the Cardinals as their HC. Bowles served as Arizona’s defensive coordinator from 2013-14 before accepting the head coaching job with Gang Green, and he remains a beloved figure in the desert. He enjoyed his time with the Cardinals, has strong ties with many prominent figures in the organization, and has a good relationship with some of the existing assistant coaches, so the Cardinals could turn to Bowles if they want to replace Wilks but avoid a complete overhaul. Bowles is expected to be fired by the Jets at the end of the 2018 season.
  • The Rams‘ success under head coach Sean McVay is having a trickle-down effect on his coaching staff. La Canfora writes that Los Angeles’ quarterbacks coach, Zac Taylor, is drawing plenty of buzz as a head coaching candidate and is expected to receive significant interest from clubs looking for a new HC this year. Taylor served as Miami’s offensive coordinator during the second half of the 2015 season and earned rave reviews for his work, and teams would love to bring the 35-yard-old aboard as a coordinator. But the relatively shallow pool of top HC candidates expected to be available in 2019 suggests that Taylor could make a McVay-like leap to the head coaching ranks next year.
  • Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who is currently sidelined with a Grade 2 MCL sprain, could be back as soon as next week, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Gordon will miss tonight’s game against Pittsburgh but has a chance to return for the team’s December 9 matchup with the Bengals or the December 13 game in Arrowhead.
  • Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who returned to practice this week, is not expected to play today, per Rapoport (Twitter link). However, Berry has not suffered any setbacks, so he could be ready to go when Kansas City hosts the Ravens next week.
  • More troubling news has emerged regarding former Chiefs star Kareem Hunt, which we detailed this morning.