After one season as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Wilks was unceremoniously fired in the desert.
“When I see a guy that has a tremendous football acumen, is very diverse in his ability to use personnel, then why wait? It is everything that I want, so we didn’t wait,” Kitchens said. “And I like guys that strive to be great and I think that Steve does that. “
That’s not all that convinced Kitchens to hire Wilks
“I also like guys that strive to have an environment of learning and strive to have an environment of listening, being together and being a part of a team. I can’t tell you how many staffs I have been on that were not like that. It was all a bunch of individuals and individuals are not going to win. I said it earlier, two is one and one is none and I live by that. The letter “I” is I. It is not a “we.” It is not a word. “I” is not a word, so I like people like that. I like surrounding myself with people like that and Steve is like that.”
So who is the Browns new defensive coordinator? It is time to get to know Steve Wilks.
Wilks enters his 25th year as a coach and his 14th season in the NFL. He has helped his teams advance to two Super Bowls.
In 2018, Wilks served as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals after spending six seasons (2012-17) with the Carolina Panthers. He served as the defensive backs coach his first five seasons and was defensive coordinator in 2017. The Panthers finished in the top-10 in total defense in five of Wilks’ six seasons with the team.
With Wilks as defensive coordinator the club went from 21st in 2016 to seventh in 2017. Carolina also finished among the league leaders in sacks (third with 50) and run defense (third at 88.1) and were the only NFL team to not allow a 100-yard rusher in a game. LBs Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis were selected to the Pro Bowl, while Kuechly added first team All-Pro honors. In 2016 as secondary coach, the Panthers tied for the NFC lead with 17 interceptions.
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In 2015, Carolina led the NFL in interceptions (24), takeaways (39), and opponent passer rating (73.5) and advanced to Super Bowl 50.
Prior to Carolina, Wilks spent three seasons (2009-11) coaching the Chargers defensive backs. In 2010, San Diego led the league in total defense and pass defense. Wilks helped S Eric Weddle to two All-Pro selections (2010-11) and one Pro Bowl selection (2010).
Wilks joined the NFL ranks as Chicago’s defensive backs coach from 2006-08. In 2006, the Bears led the NFL in takeaways and advanced to Super Bowl XLI.
Prior to Chicago, Wilks spent 11 seasons coaching on the college level. He began his coaching career as the defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith (1995-96). He also spent two seasons (1997-98) as defensive coordinator at Savannah State, where he was named Division II Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 1998. He was elevated to head coach in 1999 and guided the Tigers to a 5-6 record.
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.
Steve spent time at Bowling Green as defensive backs coach in 2003 before working at Notre Dame (2004) and the University of Washington (2005) in the same capacity.
Wilks attended West Charlotte 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.