Steve Wilks

Cardinals Notes: Fitzgerald, Wilks, Bidwill

On Tuesday morning, the Cardinals introduced new head coach Steve Wilks to the public. Here’s a look at the highlights from the presser, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise:

  • Wilks said he had an “in-depth conversation” with wide reciever Larry Fitzgerald, but Fitzgerald didn’t say whether or not he’s playing in 2018 (via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com). However, Wilks said he’d “love” to have Fitzgerald back. Recently, Fitzgerald indicated that the team’s choice of a replacement for Bruce Arians would factor heavily in his decision. It’s not immediately clear how Fitzgerald feels about the hiring of Wilks, a defensive-minded coach.
  • Team president Michael Bidwill said he knew on Saturday that Wilks was his guy, so therefore he did not feel the need to interview any candidates who were coaching in the Super Bowl (via Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic). John DeFilippo, Jim Schwartz, and Brian Flores were all in the running for the job, but Arizona did not want to risk losing Wilks by waiting. Matt Patricia was also up for the position, but he agreed to join the Lions earlier this month.
  • When asked about the defensive scheme he’ll employ, Wilks said, “I’ve coached both 3-4 and 4-3. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” (via Darren Urban of the team website). The Cardinals were a 3-4 team last year while the Panthers employed a 4-3 scheme. It sounds like Wilks intends on keeping Arizona in the 3-4 set.
  • Wilks wants to have coordinators in place by the Super Bowl (link via Somers). The Cardinals are considering former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for the OC job and may look at Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. On the other side of the ball, Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb is the expected hire.

More On The Latest Coaching Hires

The Giants officially hired former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to be the team’s next head coach earlier today, and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com offered his breakdown of why Shurmur was selected out of the field of six candidates.

Raanan notes that while the Giants did consider coaches with without head coaching experience, general manager Dave Gettleman made it a point that he wanted someone who has held the position before and could bring coordinator experience to the team, which is two criteria Shurmur clearly checks off. He also notes that Gettleman mentioned in his own statement about the hire that the job seemed like it was “not too big” for Shumur, which speaks to Gettleman’s want to bring in somebody that has been lead positions in football for a long while.

Raanan also passes along a ringing endorsement from Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who’s Shurmur coached for the past two seasons.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for,” said Rudolph. “He’s a guy I had the pleasure of working with in the tight end room before he took over as offensive coordinator halfway through the year, and then working with him day in and day out this year, the way he’s led the offense and took us — even though we faced the adversity [of] losing another starting quarterback, another starting running back — he carried us all the way to a top-10 offense.

It’s not a surprise that Shurmur got the job considering the reports that have been coming out over the past week and with the original criteria that the Giants front office was looking for, it appears that they have hired the type of guy they wanted for the job when they began their search for their next head coach.

Here’s a few more notes from today’s coaching news:

  • Mike Vrabel is well known for his days as a Patriots linebacker, but he now enters the biggest challenge of his post-playing days as the new head coach of the Titans. In today’s introductory press conference, Vrabel touched on many things he intends to do now that he is the leader of a team and coaching staff, reports Terry McCormick of Titans Insider. The first-time head coach stated that he doesn’t “want to put a timetable on it because I want the right guys”. This comes in accordance with the reported front runner for the team’s offensive coordinator position, Ryan Daywill not be hired. Speaking of offense, Vrabel noted that even with the team wanting to properly develop Marcus Mariota, he intends to have a strong ground game to compliment him, but not to the team’s detriment. “I think that we’re going to run the football,” said the head coach. “We’re going to run it from the quarterback being under center, we’re going to run it from the quarterback being in gun,” Vrabel said. “We’re going to give Marcus (Mariota) some easy access throws, whether that be RPOs or run reliefs. We’re not going to run it into eight or nine guys, we’re not going to be silly. I believe in screens, I believe in play action, things that he does well.” Overall, Vrabel wants to establish a “Titans Way” brand of football that the team can point to year in and year out. “I think to get a ‘Way,’ you have to win. You have to be able to win championships before people start giving you ‘Ways’ to do things. That will be our ultimate goal, but I talked about how our players are going to be prepared,” Vrabel said. “They’re going to play fast and aggressive, and that’s what I believe in. Until we can win a championship doing that, then there’s not going to be this ‘Titans Way.’ That will be talked about in the building, but people from outside the building, they won’t believe in us, they won’t have faith in us until you win.”
  • The Cardinals head coaching search ended in the hiring of former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks being named to the position this afternoon. Wilks has a difficult job in succeeding Bruce Arians, but Kent Somers of AZCentral believes that he will bring a “stead, firm hand” to the Cardinals organization. Somers notes that former players have lauded him for him for his ability to tell it straight and stay mentally tough in difficult situations. Veteran safety Eric Weddle, told Somers that, “The way we worked, the accountability. He stood tall among the big personalities. He didn’t bow down.” The search lasted Arizona’s front office three weeks, the longest of any team in the NFL. While Wilks doesn’t bring a high level of coordinator or head coach experience, he has made a mark on many of the players that he’s coached along the way, including retired cornerback Antoine Cason“I think he is a hell of a coach,” Cason said. “He was the type of guy you just knew was going to be a head coach.” 

Coaching Notes: Cardinals, Lions, Packers

New Cardinals hire Steve Wilks will be bringing in some of new faces to the coaching staff. One of the biggest changes will be at defensive coordinator as he appears to be poised to bring his former Panthers colleague Al Holcomb to lead the defense. This means that former defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be on the way out, according to Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Jurecki does make sure to note that Bettcher will “land on his feet” with another organization that he’s actively looking for other opportunities around the league. These next few weeks will be a quick change for Bettcher, who was in the final group to be considered for the Cardinals vacant head coaching job.

Here’s more coaching stories to follow:

  • While Wilks will be making multiple changes to the Cardinals coaching staff, that doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a complete overhaul. The new first-time head coach is likely to keep some members from Bruce Arians‘ staff on board for next season, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). While many new coaches like to make their imprint on the organization through bringing in new coaches onto the team, there’s also something to be said for trying to keep some of the same voices that players have been hearing from throughout the past few years.
  • The Lions will be letting go of their quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan, sources tell Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). As I noted before, it’s not unusual for new head coaches to turnover their staff, but Breer adds that this move is a little surprising because Callahan is well-regarded around the league and will have a number of teams looking to bring him in for 2018. It’s been rumored that he could be a potential candidate for the Titans vacant offensive coordinator gig.
  • Meanwhile, the Seahawks have made a decision on who their next quarterbacks coach will be. The team has officially promoted Dave Canales from wide receivers coach to working with Seattle’s signal callers next year, a source tells Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). Canales has been on Pete Carroll‘s staff since 2010 and was previously promoted to the WR coach position back in 2015. Although, this move doesn’t necessarily signal that the Seahawks will move on from former QB coach Carl Smith. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times hears that Smith could be shifted to a different role (Twitter link).
  • The Packers have added a new coach from the college ranks. Mike McCarthy has hired Ryan Downward from Bowling Green to help work on the team’s defensive staff. Downward worked as Bowling Green’s safeties coach for the past two seasons and previously worked for new Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine back when he coached in Cleveland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Hire Steve Wilks As Head Coach

The Cardinals have officially hired Steve Wilks as their new head coach. The news was first reported by Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Per the team’s announcement, it’s a four-year deal with a club option for year five.Steve Wilks (vertical)

Wilks has reportedly made a “very strong impression” on Cardinals ownership during the search process. Last week, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo, and incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher were all said to be in the mix, but Wilks came out on top.

This is not really a rebuild, this is a retool,” Wilks told the team website. “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 just finished his first year as a defensive coordinator with the Panthers, but has eleven previous seasons of experience as an NFL assistant. Both the Giants and Titans considered Wilks for their head coaching vacancies this year before choosing to hire Pat Shurmur and Mike Vrabel, respectively. Despite his relative lack of coordinator experience, it’s clear that Wilks is highly respected around the NFL.

DeFilippo missed out on the head coaching job in Arizona, but he could potentially become the team’s new offensive coordinator. Previous reports have indicated that Wilks would like to have the Eagles QBs coach as his OC, but Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) notes that the team also plans to talk to other candidates including Mike McCoy and Darrell Bevell.

Meanwhile, Wilks could already have a defensive coordinator in mind. Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb is a candidate to follow Wilks from Carolina to Arizona, according to Garafolo (on Twitter).

Wilks will have some serious tools to work with, including edge rusher Chandler Jones, linebacker Haason Reddick, cornerback Patrick Peterson, and safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker. The return of David Johnson will bolster the team on the other side of the ball, but the Cardinals will have to address their quarterback situation in the wake of Carson Palmer‘s retirement. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is also thinking about calling it a career and he has indicated that the team’s head coaching hire will weigh heavily in his decision. With that in mind, a call to Fitzgerald might be one of the top items on Wilks’ to-do list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Rumors: Munchak, Wilks, Caldwell

The Cardinals are the only NFL team looking for a new head coach that either hasn’t already made a hire or does not have a clear-cut front-runner for the position. Indeed, many coaches around the league have “trepidation” about the Arizona gig, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Among the factors concerning potential contenders are the Cardinals’ lack of a solution at quarterback and the increasingly difficult path to contention in the NFC West. Additionally, Arizona prefers to keep the majority of its defensive staff in place, meaning a new head coach might not get the opportunity to hire his own coaches, as La Canfora writes in a separate piece. The immediate outlook for the Cardinals isn’t very positive, meaning ownership could make “sweeping changes” again in just a few years.

Here’s more on the Cardinals:

  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak withdrew from Arizona’s coaching hunt last week, but La Canfora reports (via Twitter) that Munchak would have been the favorite for the club’s head coaching position had he not pulled out. Munchak cited family concerns when explaining why he decided to remain in Pittsburgh, but there was at least some thought the Steelers could promote the NFL Hall of Famer to offensive coordinator after ex-OC Todd Haley‘s contract expired. Instead, Pittsburgh tabbed incumbent quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner for the role, meaning Munchak will return for a fifth season as the team’s OL coach. Munchak, 57, has previous head coaching experience, as he posted a 22-26 record with the Titans from 2011-13.
  • Among the candidates who are still in contention for the Arizona job, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has reportedly made a “very strong impression” on Cardinals ownership during the search process, tweets La Canfora. Wilks, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, and Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo all have or will receive second interviews. Incumbent DC James Bettcher, meanwhile, won’t require a second meeting given his familiarity with Arizona’s decision-makers.
  • While the Cardinals’ search is still ongoing, candidates have already started to formulate hypothetical coaching staffs. Flores for instance, would likely install former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator were he to land the Arizona gig, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, meanwhile, is eyeing former Broncos play-caller Mike McCoy for OC and ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano for DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • We touched on Haley earlier, and the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator says he would have interest in taking over OC duties for the Cardinals, per Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link). Haley, of course, has worked in Arizona before as the club’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Also a potential candidate for vacant OC jobs in both New York and Cleveland, Haley will likely need to wait until the Cardinals settle on their next head coach before taking any serious looks at a reunion in the desert.

Coaching Rumors: Cardinals, McAdoo, Fins

The Cardinals interviewed two more head coach candidates today, but the search will continue into next week, according to Kent Somers of AZCentral Sports. The Cardinals have met with Steve Wilks and Keith Armstrong twice and will not need to interview current defensive coordinator James Bettcher another time because of his history with the organization. The team will also interview John DeFilippo and Brian Flores next week, per Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

In addition, Somer states that the team could look at giving Jim Schwartz a second interview, but Jurecki did not mention the Eagles defensive coordinator in his tweet. The search is mostly continuing because both the Eagles and Patriots will be playing in their respective conference championships, so depending on how the games shake out, Arizona could resolve their head coaching search by the end of next week.

Finally, Somers importantly notes that former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has recommended Bettcher and Armstrong among this pool of coaches the front office is considering.

Here are more a coaching notes from around the NFL:

  • In more Cardinals coaching staff news, now two former staffers have now left for new opportunities, reports Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). In addition to former special teams coordinator Amos Jones moving onto the same position with the Browns, former wide receiver coach Darryl Drake has been hired by the Steelers.
  • Hue Jackson is adding an offensive coordinator to his staff and have interviewed former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo for the job. He interviewed with the Browns three days ago and apparently “It went fine”, a Browns source tells Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Anderson adds that the source mentioned that they are “Just not going to rush into anything” after speaking to two candidates as of right now. Cleveland is also interviewing a high profile college coach in LSU’s RB coach Tommy Robinson for the same position on their staff, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • The Dolphins announced a slew of coaching moves today. The biggest apart from Dowell Loggains being brought on as offensive coordinator is former OC Clyde Christensen being reassigned as the team’s new director of football and player development. Shawn Jefferson was wide receivers coach, but will now be an assistant head coach working with the offense. They are also are promoting Ben Johnson to WR coach. He got experience with this group of players as an assistant WR coach last season.
  • The Bears have named Brock Olivo as the team’s new assistant special teams coach, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Olivo was the Broncos’ special teams coordinator last year and was with Matt Nagy on the Chiefs’ staff from 2014-16 as an assistant to special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He previously was a former running back for the Lions back in his playing days.
  • The Texans have promoted Anthony Midget to the team’s secondary coach, according to Mark Berman of Fox26 (Twitter link). Berman also notes that they have also hired Danny Barrett as the RB coach and Tracy Smith as an assistant special teams coach.

Cardinals Complete Second Interviews With Keith Armstrong, Steve Wilks

With the Giants, Colts and Lions all having head coaches likely to accept job offers, the Cardinals continue to talk to different candidates about their vacant head coaching gig. Today, the team has just completed a second interview with Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link) and Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Keith Armstrong (vertical)

Armstrong originally spoke to the team on January 8, but received a second interview request after it was revealed that other potential candidates Matt Patricia and Pat Shurmur would likely accept other jobs after their respective teams are eliminated from the postseason.

The 54-year-old Armstrong has held his special teams post in Atlanta since 2008. The Cardinals have been the only team that has requested to interview him for a head coaching role. On the other hand, Wilks has been spoken to a number of teams about their vacant head coaching gigs, including the Titans, who still have their spot open.

Arizona is still considering multiple coaches, including current defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo, Patriots linebacker coach Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Blackburn, Bears, Browns

The Panthers will be making a change atop their special teams staff. Incumbent special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is out, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets, and the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez reports (on Twitter) Chase Blackburn will now run Carolina’s special teams units. A former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and finished his career with the Panthers, Blackburn had been working as the Panthers’ assistant ST coach for the past two years.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • For the first time since 2010, someone other than Chris Tabor will oversee the Browns‘ ST units. Amos Jones will relocate to Cleveland to take over as the team’s special teams boss, Marvez tweets. Jones coached the Cardinals’ ST groups during Bruce Arians‘ five-year stay in Arizona. Tabor is now the Bears’ ST coordinator.
  • Rumored to be a candidate to stay in Chicago despite the Bears‘ coaching change, Dave Ragone will indeed stay on as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports. This comes after the Bears interviewed both ex-Raiders OC Todd Downing and Texans assistant Pat O’Hara for the job. Ragone could be in line for an extension, Biggs notes, with one year remaining on his Bears contract.
  • Biggs also notes Vic Fangio believes most, if not all, of his defensive assistants will remain on staff. The Bears finished as the No. 14 DVOA defense in 2017 and retained Fangio despite his contract having expired.
  • The TitansSteve Wilks HC interview took place Thursday. Both Wilks and Texans DC Mike Vrabel interviewed for this job today. Wilks remains a candidate for the Cards’ HC job.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals‘ HC position, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets James Bettcher likely won’t need a second interview to be hired. Should the Cards determine their current DC is the right man for the job, Somers notes his five years of experience working with the team should be a sufficient judge rather than a second meeting for the HC job.
  • The Raiders continued to add to their coaching staff this week, bringing aboard four new assistants to Jon Gruden 2.0’s first staff. Recently jettisoned Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac will land in Oakland as its D-line instructor, and Byron Storer will be the team’s assistant special teams coach. Trgovac coached Green Bay’s defensive lines from 2009-17. The 33-year-old Storer played for Gruden as a fullback in Tampa Bay from 2007-08 but hasn’t coached in the NFL since working with the 2013 Chargers. Additionally, Tim Berbenich and Travis Smith will be offensive and defensive quality control coaches, respectively. Smith’s been a Raiders assistant for most of this decade. He served as outside linebackers coach in 2017 after being promoted from the quality control group last year.

Coaching Rumors: Titans, Cowboys, Texans

Weather-related concerns are forcing the Titans to shift the timeline of their head coaching search, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets. Whereas Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur were originally scheduled to interview with Tennessee on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, Vrabel and LaFleur will now sit down with Titans general manager Jon Robinson on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Vrabel, LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks — whose is currently en route to Tennessee for his interivew, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer — are the only definitive candidates for the Tennessee job thus far, but reports have indicated the Titans could also have interest in Eagles OC Frank Reich.

Here’s more from the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • Former NFL defensive coordinators John Pagano and Ray Horton will meet with the Cowboys, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Pagano, the longtime Chargers’ DC, spent last season as an assistant head coach (and later, interim DC) for the Raiders, while Horton — formerly the defensive play-caller for the Cardinals, Titans, and Browns, didn’t work in the NFL in 2017. Dallas already has a defensive coordinator in Rod Marinelli, but the Cowboys were reportedly willing to promote Marinelli to assistant head coach in order to keep ex-LBs coach Matt Eberflus.
  • While the Cowboys are apparently considering additions to their defensive coaching staff, they’ve made a hire on the offensive side of the ball in new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal, tweets David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Lal, 48, originally joined the NFL ranks with the Raiders in 2007, and has since coached wideouts for Oakland, New York, and Buffalo. Former Cowboys wide receiver/current Cowboys scout Miles Austin also reportedly interviewed for the position.
  • The Texans have hired former Raiders special teams coach Brad Seely for the same position, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Seely was forced out in Oakland earlier this month when the Raiders hired Rich Bisaccia as their new assistant head coach/special teams. He’ll replace Larry Izzo, the former NFL linebacker who led Houston to a No. 31 ranking in special teams DVOA a season ago. Seely, 61, has been an NFL ST coach since 1989, and the Texans will be his eighth professional stop. He should have a working relationship with Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, as the pair spent time together with the Patriots from 2007-08.

Cardinals To Interview Steve Wilks Again

The Cardinals will interview Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks a second time in relation their head coaching vacancy, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.Steve Wilks (vertical)

[RELATED: 2018 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Arizona appears to be narrowing its head coaching search, as Wilks, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, and Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong are all slated to receive second interviews. Two other candidates — Matt Patricia and Pat Shurmur — are expected to accept head coaching positions elsewhere, while Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak has withdrawn his name from consideration. There’s no word as of yet as to whether Brian Flores, James Bettcher, or Jim Schwartz will meet with the Cardinals again.

Wilks, meanwhile, was linked to every NFL coaching vacancy this offseason with the exception of the Raiders, who had Jon Gruden as their No. 1 choice all along. Along with the Cardinals, Wilks still appears to be in contention for the Titans’ head coaching role, as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.