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The Cardinals were 3-13 this season, in a year that seemed like it was intended to be one for rebuilding: Wilks was a rookie head coach, the Cardinals started a rookie quarterback for 13 games, and switched offensive coordinators midseason, giving rookie coordinator Byron Leftwich a chance.
But none of that saved Wilks.
Steve Wilks had challenges in his first season
Earlier in December, columnist Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, who was a longtime Cardinals beat reporter before being promoted to columnist several months ago, wrote that Wilks had “failed miserably” as a head coach, “most notably in failing to properly utilize talent and make adjustments on game day.”
Somers believed it was a foregone conclusion that Wilks would be fired.
NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport wrote recently that Arizona owner Michael Bidwill had not communicated a firm decision, and that multiple options were possible. One option included Wilks making significant changes to his coaching staff.
Wilks was the last head coach hired in this year’s cycle, and it hampered his ability to assemble a staff. He also was likely affected by the five-week suspension of general manager Steve Keim, who missed a significant chunk of training camp because of his team-imposed punishment for an extreme DUI arrest on July 4.
Larry Fitzgerald defended Wilks
On Dec. 23, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald texted an NFL.com reporter and said, “We all would want him back” in regards to Wilks.
“I love Wilks,” Fitzgerald added. “Great dude. We all play hard for him. That’s the team – not me alone – speaking on it.”
Late in the season retired cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman posted an impassioned defense of Wilks on social media, and tagged the Cardinals. Wilks was Tillman’s position coach in Chicago from 2006-08 and again during Tillman’s last NFL season in Carolina, in 2015.
“Cardinals Fans,” Tillman wrote. “I know this season hasn’t worked out like you all wanted it to, but you have to trust the process. Coach Wilks is the right man to lead your organization. He will build a winning program.
“I’ve had the honor of having him coach me on two different Super Bowl teams and our secondary was second to none with that style of defense he taught. Leadership in its purest form is hard to find and you have it in Coach Wilks. A lot of my success in the NFL can be attributed to this man.
“The NFL isn’t known for having patience, but I’ve never been more sure that if you stay the course with Steve Wilks, he will do great things for the Arizona Cardinals.”
Despite those respected voices defending Wilks, he was fired after just one season as Cardinals head coach.
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