The Cleveland Browns have yet to officially announce that Freddie Kitchens will be the team’s next head coach, but the club has been busy working to fill out the coaching staff.
After missing out, if you will, on Vance Joseph (hired by the Arizona Cardinals) and Chuck Pagano (hired by the Chicago Bears) for the defensive coordinator position, the Browns have now reportedly turned their attention to Steve Wilks, last seen as a one-and-down head coach with the Arizona Cardinals, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
The #Browns are working on a deal to hire former #AZCardinals head coach Steve Wilks as their defensive coordinator, sources say. A strong hire to work with all that talent as new coach Freddie Kitchens builds his staff.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 11, 2019
In a fun little twist, Wilks was spotted with general manager John Dorsey walking through the halls of team headquarters during Friday’s in-house show, Cleveland Browns Daily.
Wilks has spent time as a defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers. He was promoted to the defensive coordinator position in Carolina in 2017 and found some success as the Panthers were in the top 10 in yards allowed and points allowed per game that season.
He was hired by the Cardinals as head coach for the 2018 season, but the team struggled to a 3-13 record and fired Wilks. Arizona’s defense finished the season ranked 20th in yards per game (358.8) and 32nd against the run (154.9) yards per game.
Wilks may not have been the cause of all the problems, however, as Jonathan Jones pointed out at si.com in December:
But this is more than just a coach having a losing record in his first season—this firing had everything. Team president Michael Bidwill is considered to be easily swayed by fan reaction. General manager Steve Keim, who had overseen three bad-to-mediocre drafts before hitting in 2018 and who was absent all training camp after pleading guilty to an extreme DUI, put together an uncompetitive roster. Yet of the three, only Wilks is the one without a job.
One thing working in Wilks’ favor is that he prefers a 4-3 base for his defense, which is what the Browns have built for the past two seasons. While the defense may only line up in that particular alignment a handful of times each game, the fact that the players match the coach’s philosophy is a plus, especially given that part of the Cardinals’ defensive struggles in 2018 came from the team beginning the transformation from a team built for a 3-4 base defense.