Michael Bidwill wanted to give Steve Wilks the entire season to fix what was wrong with the Arizona Cardinals, but the team’s president already had reservations about his head coach after two games, when the Cards were outscored, 58-6, with a healthy roster.
Bidwill never saw the progress he sought. It made Wilks a one-and-done head coach, after the Cardinals fired him Monday less than 24 hours after the Cards closed out their 2018 season with a 27-24 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.
The Cardinals finished 3-13 this season, the worst record in the NFL.
“The fact we went backward on offense and defense, and looking at his plan for 2019, I just didn’t feel it was a plan I wanted to get behind, that would turn us around and get us back to the type of football we expect and that our fans deserve,” Bidwill said.
Bidwill said the search for a new coach had already begun with formal interview requests going out Monday afternoon.
Wilks becomes the first Cardinals coach let go after one season since Joe Kuharich was relieved of his duties following a 4-8 season in 1952. He is the ninth coach in the NFL since 2006 fired after only one season. The last two were both from the 49ers – Jim Tomsula after the 2015 season, and Chip Kelly after the 2016 season.
While discussing the move on from Wilks, Bidwill also expressed his confidence in General Manager Steve Keim, noting Keim was the chief architect of the teams that won 50 games from 2013-2017 and chose, along with Bidwill, to hire Bruce Arians.
Asked about his own responsibility in the Cardinals’ difficult season, Keim acknowledged “I think there is a great deal of it.”
“We have to look at this roster … and see the holes, not the strengths,” Keim said. “Not only am I humbled enough to realize there are improvements to be made, but at the end of the day, I have the utmost confidence in myself we will get this turned around.”
The duo declined to get into specific details of what they did not like about Wilks’ plan or issues this year, although Keim did say the inability to make the defense work with the current roster after a scheme change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 “was a real sticking point.”
“There are a number of things you look at, but there were a number of games we were not competitive and honestly did not feel we were growing as a football team,” Keim said.
Bidwill said there was never any discussion about Wilks potentially changing his coaching staff in order to remain.
The offense struggled mightily all season, finishing last in the NFL in overall offense, rushing, passing, third-down conversions and points per game. The defense was last in rushing defense, an Achilles' heel that the Cardinals tried to work on all season. The team finished a minus-200 in point differential, a statistic cited by both Bidwill and Keim.
“Any time something happens like that, you feel bad for a person,” defensive end Markus Golden said. “At the same time, (Wilks) came in and went hard every day, so I respect him. I know he gave it his all. I know he can walk away with pride and say, ‘Hey, at least I came in hard every day and tried to do my job and tried to help this team win.’ So I respect coach Wilks. He brought his all every day.”
Wilks is one of eight NFL head coaching vacancies after a rash of Black Monday morning firings. The Broncos’ Vance Joseph, the Dolphins’ Adam Gase and the Bengals’ Marvin Lewis all were out. The Buccaneers and Jets fired Dirk Koetter and Todd Bowles, respectively, on Sunday night. The Packers and Browns already had let their coaches go during the season.
“Steve Wilks deserved better than we gave him this year,” rookie running back Chase Edmonds said.