PHOENIX (AP) – Steve Wilks is the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals announced Monday that the 48-year-old Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator had agreed to a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth.
Wilks spent one season as coordinator in Carolina, his 12th year as an NFL assistant. Wilks spent five seasons as Panthers secondary coach before his promotion a year ago.
Wilks replaces the colorful and outspoken Bruce Arians, who retired after five seasons and compiled a franchise-record 50 victories.
With the hiring of Wilks, all three major football programs in the state have African-American coaches – Wilks, Herm Edwards at Arizona State and Kevin Sumlin at Arizona. Wilks is the Cardinals' second African-American coach (Denny Green was the first) and the only minority to get an NFL head coaching job this hiring cycle.
The Cardinals were 8-8 last season despite a myriad of significant injuries and closed out Arians' career with a win in Seattle.
"This is not really a rebuild, this is a retool," Wilks told azcardinals.com. "We have the culture of winning here. We just have to be able to sustain it. It's all about trying to get to the next level and the consistency you need to get to the next level."
Patrick Peterson, perennial Pro Bowl cornerback and a leader of the Arizona defense, tweeted simply "I LOVE IT."
Azcardinals.com released a brief video of Wilks talking to Arizona fans.
"I'd like to introduce myself to the 'Bird Gang,'" he said. "This is your head coach Steve Wilks. I'm so excited about building something great here. It's all about trying to create a commitment to excellence and I can't wait to see you guys at the Red Sea."
Wilks was in Arizona for a second interview last week and was interviewed for the Tennessee job, which went to Mike Vrabel. Wilks also coached for 11 years at the collegiate level, including a one-year stint as head coach at Savannah State in 1999.
The Cardinals planned to introduce Wilks as coach at a news conference Tuesday at team headquarters.
The Cardinals were the last team to fill a coaching vacancy, just as they were in 2013 when they hired Arians, who won his second NFL coach of the year award in his second season with the team.
Last week, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talked about Wilks' coaching potential.
"I know that Steve is a hot commodity, deservedly so," Rivera said. 'He has done a tremendous job wherever he's been, starting in Chicago and San Diego and down here with us. It's going to be a tough one. Him and Sean (McDermott) are two very good people who are very special to this organization."
Wilks replaced McDermott as Carolina defensive coordinator when McDermott was named head coach at Buffalo a year ago.