TEMPE, Ariz. — New Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks had the unenviable job of taking the stage at his introductory news conference Tuesday afternoon just weeks after he replaced one of the most charismatic, funny and foul-mouthed coaches in the NFL.
He took the podium in a navy blue suit, white shirt and red tie, and spent 27 minutes laying out his plan to “bring a world championship to the Arizona Cardinals.”
“When you look at coming into a new situation, we always talk about trying to establish a culture, we want to establish a culture of winning, and I want that culture to transcend not only with the players and the coaches but with everybody in the organization,” Wilks said. “It’s about a commitment to excellence, and everything we do is going to be predicated towards that.”
And Wilks literally meant everything.
“Excellence when we go out on the field in the way we tackle, the way we block, the way we catch, the way we cook the food, the way we operate in the training room, the way we answer the phone and the way we cut the grass,” he said. “There’s many parts, but we’re one body at work.”
Tuesday was the culmination of a three-week search that took the Cardinals “thousands and thousands of miles,” and included “hundreds of hours of interviews and conversations, text messages, emails, input from a variety of candidates,” team president Michael Bidwill said.
Bidwill described Wilks, who spent 2017 as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, as a “great leader” who has a high football IQ and high football EQ — emotional quotient.
Wilks gave his opening statement fluidly, without looking down at the podium. The command of a room that has been described by many throughout the interview process as one of Wilks’ strong suits came through Tuesday as his wife, Marcia, daughters Marissa and Melanni, and son Steven James sat in the front row to his left.
Wilks answered questions by sidestepping details, ranging from his defensive scheme to his staff to the interview process.
But Wilks said his approach to the Cardinals’ roster — which is currently sans a quarterback — won’t be drastic.
“This is not a rebuild, this is a retool,” Wilks said. “I think we have the pieces in place when you look at the talent level on both sides of the ball.”
Like Arians had, Wilks announced three “pillars” of his coaching philosophy: trust, commitment and accountability. He also said there won’t be any “entitlement” with him or his players.
“We got to earn our right each and every day, and as we embark on this new team,” Wilks said.
Wilks described what he wants the DNA of his team to look like: physicality and effort, being smart, finish.
Wilks stressed the importance of playing smart football beyond the physical acts of the game.
“There’s two things that I will not tolerate, that’s pre-snap and post-snap penalties,” Wilks said. “Pre-snap, to me, is a sign of being undisciplined. Post-snap is a sign of being selfish, and everything I’m talking about is about team. Again, it’s not about me. It’s not about them as individuals, but it’s about us, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Wilks began his news conference by thanking those who mentored him and helped along his path to becoming a first-time head coach at 48. He also pointed out that the key to being successful in the NFL is developing players, which has contributed to Wilks’ reputation.
Something of which he was acutely aware.
“I bring a pedigree of winning,” Wilks said. “Whenever you look at a person in position for a promotion, you need to look back at his work and see what he’s accomplished. I’ve been a part of two Super Bowls — unfortunately we didn’t win them — eight playoff games, two NFC Championship Games. I’ve developed players in this league, that’s one of the backbones of the NFL.
“You got to develop players, you take a guy like Josh Norman, who is a fifth-round draft pick, and you turn him into an All-Pro player, so I’ve gotten the reputation in this league as a great teacher and a guy that can relate to players and to get them to play at a high level.”