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Steve Wilks
Head Coach
Age:
48
College:
Appalachian State
Hometown:
Charlotte, N.C.
Experience:
13

Biography

NoteCARDS:

  • Became an NFL head coach for the first time when hired by Arizona on January 22, 2018.
  • Wilks came to Arizona after spending the previous six seasons (2012-17) with the Carolina Panthers. He was promoted to Panthers defensive coordinator in 2017 after Sean McDermott departed to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Wilks had previously served as the Panthers secondary coach for five seasons (2012-16) and added the title of assistant head coach in 2015.
  • The Panthers finished in the top-10 in total defense in five of Wilks’ six seasons with the team. Last year in Wilks’ first season as defensive coordinator, the Panthers went from 21st overall in 2016 to seventh in 2017.
  • In Wilks’ first year as defensive coordinator in 2017, the Panthers finished seventh in the NFL in total defense (317.1 ypg), third in sacks (50), and third in run defense (88.1 ypg).
  • The Charlotte, NC native is a 23-year coaching veteran and has spent the last 12 years as an assistant in the NFL. Wilks also coached in the NFL with the Chicago Bears (2006-08) and San Diego Chargers (2009-11) prior to working in Carolina.
  • He coached for 11 years at the collegiate level, including one season (1999) as the head coach at Savannah State. He also worked as an assistant at Johnson C. Smith (1995-96), Savannah State (1997-98), Illinois State (2000), Appalachian State (2001), East Tennessee State (2002), Bowling Green (2003), Notre Dame (2004), and Washington (2005).

NoteCARDS:

  • Became an NFL head coach for the first time when hired by Arizona on January 22, 2018.
  • Wilks came to Arizona after spending the previous six seasons (2012-17) with the Carolina Panthers. He was promoted to Panthers defensive coordinator in 2017 after Sean McDermott departed to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Wilks had previously served as the Panthers secondary coach for five seasons (2012-16) and added the title of assistant head coach in 2015.
  • The Panthers finished in the top-10 in total defense in five of Wilks’ six seasons with the team. Last year in Wilks’ first season as defensive coordinator, the Panthers went from 21st overall in 2016 to seventh in 2017.
  • In Wilks’ first year as defensive coordinator in 2017, the Panthers finished seventh in the NFL in total defense (317.1 ypg), third in sacks (50), and third in run defense (88.1 ypg).
  • The Charlotte, NC native is a 23-year coaching veteran and has spent the last 12 years as an assistant in the NFL. Wilks also coached in the NFL with the Chicago Bears (2006-08) and San Diego Chargers (2009-11) prior to working in Carolina.
  • He coached for 11 years at the collegiate level, including one season (1999) as the head coach at Savannah State. He also worked as an assistant at Johnson C. Smith (1995-96), Savannah State (1997-98), Illinois State (2000), Appalachian State (2001), East Tennessee State (2002), Bowling Green (2003), Notre Dame (2004), and Washington (2005).

Steve Wilks was named Arizona’s head coach on January 22, 2018 when he signed a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth. The 49-year old Wilks came to Arizona after spending the past six seasons (2012-17) with Carolina, including last year as the Panthers defensive coordinator.

CAROLINA: Wilks began his career in Carolina in 2012 as the Panthers defensive backs coach for three seasons before adding the title of assistant head coach for two years (2015-16). He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017 after Sean McDermott departed to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills. The Panthers finished in the top-10 in total defense in five of Wilks’ six seasons with the team and ranked second in the NFL with 51 interceptions between 2015-17. They advanced to the playoffs in four of Wilks’ six seasons in Carolina. During Wilks’ five seasons as the Panthers secondary coach (2012-16), Carolina ranked fourth in the NFL with 86 interceptions.

Last year in Wilks’ first season as defensive coordinator, the Panthers went from 21st overall in 2016 (359.8) to seventh in 2017 (317.1 ypg). The Panthers finished third in sacks (50), and third in run defense (88.1 ypg) and were the only team in the NFL to not to allow an individual 100-yard rusher in any game. By the end of the ’17 season, the Panthers had gone 20 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the longest streak in the NFL. LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were both selected to the Pro Bowl while Kuechly was named first-team All-Pro in 2017. 

The Panthers 50 sacks in 2017 were the third-most in the NFL and the fourth-most in franchise history. They were one of three teams (Jaguars, Rams) in the NFL to have multiple players with double-digit sacks (Julius Peppers-11.0, Mario Addison-11.0).

In 2016, Wilks’ secondary helped the Panthers tie for the NFC lead with 17 interceptions. Rookie CB James Bradberry (second round) led the team with 11 passes defensed, becoming the first rookie in Panthers history to lead the team in that category. Fellow rookie CB Daryl Worley (third round) finished second with 10 passes defensed. 

Wilks was given the additional title of assistant head coach in 2015. That same season the Panthers won the NFC Championship, played in Super Bowl 50 and led the NFL in interceptions (24), total takeaways (39) and turnover differential (+20). Carolina limited opposing quarterbacks to an NFL-low 73.5 passer rating and ranked sixth in the league in total defense (322.9 ypg).

In 2015, S Kurt Coleman tied for third in the NFL with seven interceptions, the second most in team history, and returned one for a touchdown. CB Josh Norman earned first-team All-Pro honors and was selected to the Pro Bowl after recording 15 passes defensed and four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.

In 2014, Wilks’ secondary helped the Panthers rank 10th in the NFL in total defense. During the 2013 season, Wilks directed a unit that helped the Panthers finish second in the NFL in total defense and sixth in passing defense. Defensive backs were responsible for 16 interceptions, including a team-record four returned for touchdowns. Carolina limited opponents to an 81.4 passer rating, which was 10th in the NFL and S Mike Mitchell was one of two players in the NFL with at least four interceptions, three sacks and two forced fumbles.

Wilks returned home to Charlotte in 2012 to work for the Panthers. In his first season with the team, Carolina’s pass defense under Wilks improved from 24th in 2011 to 13th for an overall ranking of 10th in total defense. The Panthers led the NFL in average yards after the catch, allowed the third fewest pass plays of 20 or more yards and returned three interceptions for touchdowns.

OTHER NFL COACHING CAREER: Prior to working in Carolina, Wilks spent three seasons (2009-11) coaching the San Diego Chargers secondary. He added the title of assistant head coach in his third season with the Chargers in 2011. Prior to Wilks' arrival, San Diego ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass, but finished 11th in 2009, first in 2010 and 13th in 2011.

In 2010, Wilks helped the Chargers lead the NFL in total defense and pass defense. San Diego limited opponents to a 76.2 passer rating, fourth lowest in the league, and surrendered just 18 touchdown passes, the fifth fewest in the NFL that season. Under Wilks guidance, S Eric Weddle was twice named All-Pro (2010-11) and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010. 

Wilks’ first job in the NFL was as defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears for three seasons (2006-08). In that time, the Bears secondary accounted for 42 of the team’s 62 interceptions, including 16 in 2006 when Chicago led the NFL with 44 takeaways and advanced to Super Bowl XLI. Chicago’s defensive backs forced 20 fumbles during Wilks tenure, the most in the NFL during that three-year span. 

COLLEGE COACHING CAREER: Wilks coached for 11 seasons at the collegiate level, working as a defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach. He began his coaching career as the defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte for two seasons (1995-96) and then as defensive coordinator at Savannah State for two seasons (1997-98) before being elevated to head coach in 1999. He guided the Tigers to a 5-6 record as head coach after being named Division II defensive coordinator of the year in 1998 as Savannah State led the nation in total defense. Nine stops and 19 years later, Wilks became a head coach again when he was hired by the Cardinals in 2018. 

Wilks had one-year stints as the defensive backs coach at Illinois State (2000) and his alma mater, Appalachian State (2001), before working as the co-defensive coordinator at East Tennessee State in 2002. He then went to Bowling Green as defensive backs coach in 2003 before working at Notre Dame (2004) and the University of Washington (2005) in the same capacity. 

PERSONAL: Wilks attended West Charlotte (NC) High School and went on to play defensive back at Appalachian State (1987-91), finishing his career with 103 tackles, four interceptions and four blocked kicks. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and played defensive back and wide receiver for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Appalachian State. Wilks and his wife, Marcia, have two daughters, Marissa and Melanni, and a son, Steven James. 

Steve Wilks Coaching Breakdown

Year             School/Team                                 Position

1995–96       Johnson C. Smith                          Defensive Coordinator

1997–98       Savannah State                             Defensive Coordinator

1999             Savannah State                             Head Coach

2000             Illinois State                                  Defensive Backs

2001             Appalachian State                        Defensive Backs

2002             East Tennessee State                    Co-Defensive Coordinator

2003             Bowling Green State                     Defensive Backs

2004             Notre Dame                                   Defensive Backs

2005             University of Washington                Defensive Backs

2006–08       Chicago Bears                               Defensive Backs

2009–10       San Diego Chargers                       Defensive Backs

2011             San Diego Chargers                       Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Backs

2012–14       Carolina Panthers                          Defensive Backs

2015–16       Carolina Panthers                          Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Backs

2017             Carolina Panthers                          Defensive Coordinator

2018           ARIZONA CARDINALS                   HEAD COACH

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