Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea has heard positive things about new coach Steve Wilks.
Bruce Arians won't soon be forgotten at the Cardinals' training facility in Tempe.
The charismatic former coach retired earlier this month after a five-year journey that made him the winningest coach in franchise history and a beloved figure.
While Arians leaves big shoes to fill, there is optimism within the locker room about his successor's ability to fill that void. The new era officially began on Tuesday with Steve Wilks' introductory press conference as the team's new coach.
"I'm excited to have found the guy," offensive tackle Jared Veldheer said. "From everything I've heard and read, he seems like a great guy to be the head coach of this team. I'm looking forward to working with him."
Wilks comes to town with ringing endorsements from numerous players and coaches, including several unsolicited recommendations that touted his candidacy during the interview process. Josh Norman, the Redskins cornerback who rose to prominence in Carolina under Wilks' watch, spoke glowingly of his abilities after the hire was made.
"I came from pretty much nothing to rise up to where I'm at today and he was the catalyst behind that," said Norman, a fifth-round draft pick who eventually became an All-Pro.
Veteran safety Antoine Bethea has yet to meet Wilks but puts a lot of stock in the opinion of Panthers safety Kurt Coleman, who also vouched for Wilks.
"When you hear those type of things coming from those types of guys, like Kurt Coleman, it speaks highly of the coach's character and him as a person," Bethea said.
General Manager Steve Keim believes that while coaches can improve on the field as they gain experience, leadership is mostly innate. He and Bidwill identified Wilks as the type of coach who can lead a large group of players, even though this will be his first shot at doing so on the NFL level.
"Our goal all along was to not only find the best coach, but to find the best leader," Keim said. "It was evident to Michael and I that Steve Wilks was the best leader in that pool."
Bidwill said Wilks is the rare combination of both a players' coach and a disciplinarian. Wilks believes his personality will serve him well as he takes over.
"I've gotten the reputation throughout this league as one of a great teacher, a guy that can relate to players and get them to perform at a high level," Wilks said.
The players are waiting expectantly as Wilks works to fill out his staff. He comes from a defensive background, and his choice of offensive assistants will shape the philosophy on that side of the ball.
"He's probably going to rely on the offensive coordinator, and I'm really excited to see who our running backs coach is, honestly," running back David Johnson said. "To see what his mentality is and what he thinks of us running backs – what he wants to do with us. That's the next step for me, to wait and watch and see who we get as the running backs coach."
Bethea downplayed any scheme changes, believing success will come down to execution. He is looking forward to getting acquainted with Wilks, believing the new coach needs only to keep guiding the organization in the right direction.
"I think the foundation has been set," safety Antoine Bethea said. "From the veteran guys – (Larry Fitzgerald), Carson (Palmer) – the guys that have been here have put this organization back to a place where it's respected. With coach Wilks coming in, he's just re-tooling it. It's up to the guys in the locker room to keep this thing going. Keep the momentum that we had at the end of the year and just keep it moving throughout the offseason and into next season."
Images of Cardinals cheerleader Nikki, who is off to Orlando for this week's Pro Bowl festivities