So, Steve Wilks it is.
The Arizona Cardinals announced Monday that the 48-year-old Wilks has agreed to become the team's 10th head coach since the franchise relocated to the desert in 1988. Wilks most recently served as the Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator.
Hey Bird Gang,
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 22, 2018
Here are five important things to know about the new guy.
1. This is his first NFL head coaching job.
Wilks has a wealth of experience as a coach. He's coached at the collegiate or pro level every year since 1995, and he spent one season as a college football coach. But the Cardinals will be Wilks' first head coaching job at the NFL level.
Including Wilks, four of the last six Cardinals head coaches had no previous NFL head coaching experience. Bruce Arians, the Cardinals' previous head coach, had less than one year of NFL head coaching experience (as the Colts' interim coach) before coming to Arizona.
2. He beat the Cardinals in the playoffs.
Arians helped defeat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, Arians called the play that led to Santonio Holmes' game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
Well, like Arians, Wilks has helped knocked the Cardinals out of the postseason. He was the Panthers' assistant head coach and defensive backs coach during the 2015 NFL season, when Carolina whipped the Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game in Charlotte. The Cardinals have yet to return to the playoffs since that game.
3. Players love him.
You've surely heard the expression "a player's coach." This seems to apply to Wilks, whom guys apparently love to play for.
According to USA Today's Mike Jones, "Former players of his love Wilks. Describe him as a great leader, puts players in position to succeed and trusts, which motivates them. They say he’ll be a star."
And in case you're wondering how Cardinals players feel about the hire, Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson tweeted this Monday morning:
I LOVE IT.
— Patrick Peterson /P2 (@P2) January 22, 2018
4. He might not have been their first choice...
A couple weeks ago, ABC15 sports director Craig Fouhy learned Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was actually the Cardinals' top pick to replace Arians, with Wilks being their second choice. This was in part because Shurmur could potentially lure quarterback Case Keenum with him to Arizona. But Shurmur is reportedly set to become the New York Giants' head coach instead.
5. ...but the Cardinals' general manager loves him.
The way in which Wilks first met Cardinals general manager Steve Keim is pretty special, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Recently on vacation, a person walked up to #AZCardinals GM Steve Keim and introduced himself. On a beach in the Carolinas, Keim was blown away by this impressive dude. It was Panthers DC Steve Wilks... who Keim is expected to hire as his new head coach.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 22, 2018
Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship in the desert.