Over the past few weeks and days, we have read and heard many Cardinals’ fans question whether Steve Wilks has what it takes to be a successful NFL head coach. Being 0-3 puts any coach on the hot seat.
However, as they say—-”when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Such appears to be the case with Steve Wilks. He has a vision of how he wants his team to play—-and he is 100% committed to that vision.
The most difficult part for Steve Wilks right now is handling the awkward and tenuous situation of being the third in command on a leadership team.
For those of you have been on a leadership team—-you know exactly what I am talking about. For example, I was once told by the headmaster of the school where I was the Varsity basketball coach that he didn't want me to play all 5 of my African-American players at the same time—-that is was bad PR for the school.
I did not comply and left the school after the year was over.
That is an extreme example for the sake of making a point.
When Steve Wilks took the job he agreed to embrace Michael Bidwill’s and Steve Keim’s vision of moving the franchise forward—-which heavily involved stronger teaching from the coaches, far less finger pointing and name calling from the head coach, a more stable culture and a sizable emphasis on player development that includes motivating players with quirky personalities.
Wilks was also privy to his bosses’ vision that even though the plan was to draft a QBOF, the present plan was to hire a veteran offensive coordinator and to sign two veteran QBs, one as a bridge starter for 1-2 years and the other as a 2 year backup.
When Wilks was announced as the head coach he expressed his philosophy that all positions are open to competition and that as a result of the competition, “the best players will play.”
As one looks at the NFL standings after three games, the Cardinals are the only team in the NFL that averages single digits in points per game at 6.6. This is during a time when record numbers of TDs are being scored around the league.
The Cardinals’ point differential (-54) is by far the worst in the league. And they are a paragon of ineptitude in first downs (32) and 3rd down conversions (23.3%)—-last in the NFL in both categories.
As a result, Wilks has faced many more heated questions from the Arizona media that his predecessor ever did—-he was grilled about the 3rd and 2 play call—-and he keeps getting asked if he has faith in Mike McCoy.
Wilks is taking the high road publicly. He is defending his coaches and players to the media. But—-he is challenging his coaches and players behind the scenes.
Wilks has said all along that he wants to find the players he can trust the most—-and that is precisely what he is doing, by shuffling the struggling players out in favor of sprinting other players in—-like he did when he subbed Gerald Hodges in for Deone Bucannon—-and now when he is turning the keys over to rookie Josh Rosen at QB and is working Bene Benwikere in at RCB.
Because of the shuffling that Wilks has been doing on defense, the defense is getting stronger—-the performance of the defense is still not ultimately what Wilks envisions, but it is headed in that direction.
What is most encouraging is how well CB Patrick Peterson has embraced Wilks’ defensive philosophy. Peterson has taken his game to a higher level this year—-and others are starting to follow.
While you won’t see Wilks disparage a coach—-rest assured you won’t see stagnancy at the QB position or any position—-and you won’t see David Johnson standing on the sidelines with the game on the line ever again.
What Wilks needs to find out asap is whether Mike McCoy can have a positive influence on Josh Rosen and, in doing so, whether McCoy can start to turn the offense in the right direction. The pressure is now on McCoy to produce.
In an ideal world, Wilks would have loved to see Bidwill’s and Keim’s “retooling” vision come to fruition this year—-and Wilks would have loved to have seen former high draft picks such as Deone Bucannon and Brandon Williams play to their potential—-but Wilks is not the kind of coach who is going to settle for mediocrity or compromise his own values for the sake of appeasing a player or a boss. We can clearly see that today.
The Cardinals are in flux right now—-but this kind of flux—-generated by an impassioned and determined head coach—-is a good thing. Wilks is committed to shuffling the deck until his Cardinals start raking in tricks and stacking up piles of chips..