Of all the confirmed and rumored Tennessee Titans head coach candidates, Carolina Panthers DC Steve Wilks may be the best option.
Yesterday evening, the Tennessee Titans continued their head coaching search by meeting with Steve Wilks, the current defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. While he may seem like a bit of an unknown to many fans and some will surmise that he was only brought in to satisfy the Rooney Rule, Wilks should be considered a very serious candidate for the position.
Wilks has earned respect around the league from players, coaches and front office people because of his hard-nosed, “iron fist” type of coaching style. He demands a lot out of his players, and his track record suggests he usually gets the best out of them.
The Appalachian State alum has coached defensive backs for a total of 16 years across college and professional football. He also has six years of defensive coordinating experience and one year of head coaching experience (with Savannah State in 1999).
His work with defensive backs got him his first break in the NFL, when the Chicago Bears hired him as their defensive backs coach in 2006. That same year, the Bears reached the Super Bowl on the back of a stifling defense, which featured Wilks-coached defensive backs like Charles “Peanut” Tillman, Nathan Vasher and Ricky and Danieal Manning.
After three years with the Bears, Wilks moved on to coach the secondary of the San Diego Chargers for three seasons before ultimately landing with the Carolina Panthers, where he has served as a defensive backs coach from 2012-2016, assistant head coach from 2015-present and defensive coordinator beginning in 2017. Wilks’ defense ranked seventh-best in the league in yards per game allowed and 11th-best in terms of points per game given up. His defense also racked up the third-most sacks in the league in 2017, with a whopping 50.0 in total.
Wilks is a seasoned veteran, has the right attitude and can continue the culture change that was started by Mike Mularkey in Tennessee. He also would likely bring a 4-3 scheme back to Tennessee, which is what many have been clamoring for, since the current personnel fits better in that configuration than a 3-4.
But with him being a defensive coach, his offensive coordinator pick is crucial. That’s where Wilks becomes an even more attractive candidate.
There have been multiple reports that Wilks’ choice to run his offense is Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. There’s this from Jason La Canfora.
A few days later, MMQB’s Albert Breer dropped this nugget.
"If he doesn’t get the Arizona job, Eagles QBs coach John DeFilippo becomes a man to watch. His contract is up in Philly, per sources, which would make him an interesting coordinator option for a lot of teams. Rumblings are that Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who interviewed with the Cardinals and Giants, would want DeFilippo to run his offense."
It’s pretty clear that Wilks is willing to give up his offense and play calling duties to someone who knows what they’re doing. Wilks and DeFilippo have never coached together, but Wilks has clearly admired DeFilippo’s work from across sidelines.
And it’s hard to blame him for doing so. DeFilippo is one of the most intriguing potential head coach or offensive coordinator options that will be available this offseason. If you don’t know much about him, just watch this video.
Coach “Flip” is detailed, has a tremendous understanding of the game and has an infectious personality. So does Wilks, and it’s no surprise they appear to want to work together. There’s a reason the Arizona Cardinals are going to interview both coaches twice. They are both great candidates for any coaching role.
Wilks alone is a fantastic candidate, but if he’s able to bring DeFilippo along to run the offense and coach up Marcus Mariota, then the Tennessee Titans will have hit two home runs with one swing.