The 5: Biggest questions facing Cardinals coach Steve Wilks, answered
The Arizona Cardinals introduced Steve Wilks as Bruce Arians’ heir on Tuesday, and during his introductory press conference, the new head coach answered five key questions about his hiring, the process of putting together his team this offseason and what his vision for the Cardinals is moving forward.
1. What stood out about Wilks?
“Not just a leader with a high football IQ, but also a high football EQ (emotional quotient). He knows where the players are (emotionally) 15 minutes after they walk into the training facility and make sure where they are as people, because they aren’t going to be ready to learn and be well-coached if they’ve got any issues outside of the organization.”
— Cardinals president Michael Bidwill
By the sound of it, the Cardinals put a priority on hiring a leader over scheme or background.
Interviewing several head coaches with prior head coaching experience as well as others who had never been coordinators, Arizona went with something in between in the 48-year-old Wilks, who was not a coordinator until 2017.
Wilks said he’s found success, mostly as a defensive backs coach, by teaching consistency. To help players learn, he said his job isn’t about telling players the same thing over and over again if they make mistakes.
Instead, he said he thrives finding creative ways to communicate the same ideas in different ways.
2. What will his staff look like?
“I say this all the time, even with my kids, ‘I’ma teach everybody the same but I’m going to coach them differently.’ I think the most important thing you’ve got to understand is personality. Everybody is different in that room, and I want to hire coaches that understand how to relate to different personalities. This is a league about developing players.”
Reports following Wilks’ hiring indicated the Cardinals are well into the process of filling out the rest of the coaching staff.
Wilks said he hopes hires are made by the Super Bowl, but he didn’t lend any hints toward what types of coaches and what styles they’ll coach.
The new Cardinals coach did say that he wants his team to develop late-round picks, a key to running a successful team. Among those on Wilks’ own resume of players he developed: 2012 fifth-round pick Josh Norman, who developed into an All Pro three seasons later.
3. About that quarterback situation …
“It’s the elephant in the room. Steve and I have addressed that issue … we’re going to have a very active and aggressive plan in free agency, and we’ll see what happens in the draft.”
— Wilks on the quarterback question
Arizona general manager Steve Keim said he approached the lack of a starting quarterback for 2018 as a positive issue for the Cardinals in their coaching search. It gave all the candidates a blank canvas to discuss their vision.
As for Wilks, let’s just say the pressure is more on his direct boss to give him a solid option under center, and preferably, a few.
Wilks will cross that bridge about what he expects of his quarterback when he has one.
4. Has he talked to Fitz?
“I spoke with Larry, we had a very in-depth conversation. I enjoyed the conversation that he and I had. He did not express whether he was or was not coming back. We definitely want him back.”
Nope. Wilks doesn’t know whether receiver Larry Fitzgerald will return or retire for the 2018 season.
Unsurprisingly, Wilks would approve if the 14-year veteran decided to put the pads back on.
5. What will the defense look like?
“I’ve coached in both systems. Most importantly and once again, we’re not going to change too much. If it’s not broke, don’t worry about trying to fix it.
“I don’t have a scheme, I have a system. If you can get there with four, we’re not going to pressure a lot.”
A defensive backs coach by trade, Wilks ran a 4-3 defense with Carolina last season, putting four down lineman at the line of scrimmage.
Would Arizona’s personnel more suited for a 3-4 defense change a great deal?
It seems like the answer is “no,” mostly because the Cardinals have quite a bit of returning talent on the roster, including one of the best cover corners in Patrick Peterson and best pass rushers in outside linebacker Chandler Jones.
Wilks expressed his desire to adapt to personnel, and he said watching former head coach Norv Turner during his stint with the San Diego Chargers taught him that the NFL is about exploiting matchups — that could lead to scheme changes each and every week.