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Steve Wilks Won’t Get the Second Season He Says He Deserves

The Cardinals fired the first-year head coach on Monday after the team finished with the worst record in the NFL. Whoever takes over will get a chance to coach Josh Rosen and potentially the incoming no. 1 pick.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

We hardly knew ye, Steve. The Arizona Cardinals fired head coach Steve Wilks on Monday, 11 months after the team hired him to replace Bruce Arians.

The Cardinals were the last team to agree to terms with a head coach in 2018, and when the dust settled in the coaching carousel, they settled on Wilks, who had been Carolina’s defensive coordinator for one year and Ron Rivera’s assistant head coach for three. While other teams hired high-profile coaches from the broadcast booth (Jon Gruden) or coordinators from the Super Bowl (Matt Patricia, Frank Reich, and Josh McDaniels, who was briefly Indianapolis Colts head coach), the Cardinals plucked Wilks out of relative obscurity to a round of “Wait, who?”

After a slow-motion nightmare of a season that ended with a league-worst 3-13 record, Arizona wants a redo. Entering Week 17, the Cardinals offense was dead last in the following categories:

  • Yards
  • Yards per play
  • First downs
  • Points scored
  • Passing yards
  • Rushing Yards
  • Net yards per pass attempt
  • Rushing yards per attempt
  • Percent of drives ending in a score
  • Third-down conversion percentage
  • Average time of possession per drive

That list is a modern art masterpiece. Quarterback Sam Bradford was benched in September, and Wilks fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in October, but that didn’t stop Arizona from submitting one of the worst offensive seasons in NFL history. Entering Week 16, Arizona’s offense was on pace to be the third-least efficient ever recorded by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which goes back to 1986. Perhaps that’s why when quarterback Josh Rosen was asked whether he wanted Wilks to return in 2019, he said, “I have thoughts, but it’s not really my place to share it.”

After Arizona’s 27-24 loss to Seattle on Sunday, Wilks told reporters he deserved a second season.

Wilks is the fifth black head coach to be fired this season after Hue Jackson, Todd Bowles, Vance Joseph, and Marvin Lewis. Coaching diversity has become a renewed priority for the league after Oakland’s hiring of Jon Gruden last year violated the spirit of the Rooney Rule.

General manager Steve Keim assembled a win-now roster that was wholly unprepared for the simultaneous departure of Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer after last season, and the team entered the offseason without an identity. Wilks did not give them one, though having Rosen on hand will go a long way. With the first pick in the draft, perhaps they can get a dominant pass rusher to star on the opposite side of Rosen, or trade down and plug the plethora of holes on their roster.