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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hired - Steve Wilks, DBs coach

Steven Wilks comes to Carolina as defensive backs coach, replacing the recently fired Ron Meeks. Wilks was the DBs coach under Ron Rivera with the Chargers, and stayed for an additional year. Wilks was not fired, but his contract was up, allowing him to leave.

Wilks was Norv Turner's assistant head coach last year, promoted after Rob Chudzinski left last year (in a similar situation - his contract simply expired and he left). Wilks, therefore, as assistant head coach, was considered Turner's right hand man, and that's never a terrible deal.

There might be an alternate theory - that Wilks was promoted because he wasn't allowed to leave - and therefore got the additional title and money, to not leave. But then he would've likely been given an additional contract length, and that didn't happen. The Chargers were searching for a replacement because they apparently knew Wilks was leaving. Turner, who probably should've just promoted John Pagano when Rivera left, did so after firing Greg Manusky this year. That wasn't an incorrect move but may have allowed Wilks to walk.

If Wilks was in our plans after one year, where did that leave Ron Meeks? A further conspiracy might suggest that Meeks wasn't kept for any other reason than to place-hold for Wilks, who would've been Rivera's first choice; it wasn't to fulfill a contract obligation, as Meeks wasn't signed for longer than John Fox and his contract would've expired in 2010 as well. Either way, as hopeful as the Meeks hiring looked, it was a merit firing - Carolina needed change and Meeks' Cover 2 teaching didn't fit in our man, zone blitz, and disguise coverage looks.

Wilks was a collegiate player at Appalachian State, and returned to his hometown of Charlotte to play for the Arena franchise, the Rage. After numerous stops at Division II teams as a coordinator, he coached DBs for Notre Dame and Washington, then was hired onto the Lovie Smith/Ron Rivera Bears in 2006; he reunited with Rivera in 09-10 as his DBs coach again.

I personally hope that, even if no other moves are made (still hoping for that ST coach change to Taub), that the team hires an assistant DBs coach, a young guy that can help out (this is always where I felt like Mike Minter could've helped us).

Meeks as DBs coach, in the singular, was the first coach in many years that didn't have help. Alvin Reynolds was the assistant DBs coach here in 2002, and he became a Jaguars assistant under Jack Del Rio (third tier assistants can easily leave, if they're offered position coach work), Ken Flajole was the assistant the year after (he ended up taking over for Sam Mills, and then left for the Rams job he just lost), and Mike Gilhamer was the safeties coach after that.

Any DBs coach can use a hand (given that up to 9 may dress, and camp may have up to 25), so I'd be in favor of giving him just that; as well, DC Sean McDermott and the position coaches have always been on the field. No one of real authority on defense is in the coach's booth. Assistant DBs coach Cris Dishman, a former All-Pro, was Wilks's counterpart in San Diego, and is also free of a contract, so hopefully they pull off something like that.

Wilks has his work cut out for him - Chris Gamble was well above average, but the rest of the secondary is, at best, in transition or underperforming.
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