Steve Wilks
Personal information
Born: (1969-08-08) August 8, 1969 (age 54)
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
Career information
High school:West Charlotte (NC)
College:Appalachian State
Position:Defensive coordinator
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Head coaching record
Regular season:NCAA: 5–6 (.455)
NFL: 9–19 (.321)
Coaching stats at PFR

Steven Bernard Wilks (born August 8, 1969) is an American football coach and former player. He last served as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. He served as the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. He has also served as defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers, as well as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Missouri. He played college football at Appalachian State.

Wilks is a three-time NFC Champion, winning with the Bears in 2006, with the Panthers in 2015, and with the 49ers in 2023, losing the Super Bowl on all three occasions.

Playing career

Wilks played defensive back from 1987 to 1991 at Appalachian State.[1]

Wilks played one year (1993) in the Arena Football League for the Charlotte Rage as a wide receiver, defensive back, and kick returner.[2]

Coaching career


Wilks served as the head coach at Savannah State College for one season (1999) and compiled a record of 5–6.[3] He coached college-level football until 2005.

Chicago Bears

On February 16, 2006, Wilks was hired by the Chicago Bears as defensive backs coach.[1] On December 30, 2008, the Bears announced that they had fired Wilks.[4]

San Diego Chargers

Wilks was hired as defensive backs coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He worked under former Bears defensive coordinator and then-Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, with Rivera promoted from defensive backs coach.[5]

Carolina Panthers (first stint)

When Rivera became head coach of the Panthers, he hired Wilks as secondary coach on January 15, 2012. He was promoted to assistant head coach in 2015.[6] He was Pro Football Focus' second runner up to their Secondary Coach of the Year award.[7]

In the 2015 season, Wilks and the Panthers finished 15–1 and reached Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016. The Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos by a score of 24–10.[8]

After defensive coordinator Sean McDermott left to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Wilks was promoted to McDermott's former position.[9]

After the 2017 season, Wilks was an extremely hot commodity for teams in need of new head coaches. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, teams were impressed by Wilks' interview with the Los Angeles Rams in the previous offseason before they eventually hired Sean McVay. Wilks also interviewed with the New York Giants, who had hired David Gettleman as general manager.[10] Gettleman previously served as general manager for the Panthers.

Arizona Cardinals

On January 22, 2018, Wilks was hired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, replacing Bruce Arians.[11] In the 2018 season opener against the Washington Redskins, Wilks made his head coaching debut with a 24–6 loss.[12] In Week 5, against the San Francisco 49ers, he recorded his first NFL victory as a head coach.[13] He finished coaching the season with a league-worst 3–13 record, the worst record for the Cardinals since 2000.[14] On December 31, 2018, the Cardinals fired Wilks.[15]

Cleveland Browns

On January 14, 2019, Wilks was hired by the Cleveland Browns to be their defensive coordinator under head coach Freddie Kitchens.[16] He was not retained for the 2020 season under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.


On January 21, 2021, after 13 seasons with the NFL, Wilks returned to college football. He was hired by the University of Missouri as their defensive coordinator under head coach Eliah Drinkwitz.[17]

Carolina Panthers (second stint)

On February 9, 2022, Wilks returned to the NFL and to the Carolina Panthers, who announced the hiring of Wilks as Matt Rhule's new defensive pass game coordinator and secondary coach.[18] On October 10, 2022, after Rhule was fired, Wilks was named the Panthers' interim head coach for the remainder of the season.[19] Wilks led Carolina to a 6–6 record over the season's remaining 12 weeks, but was passed over for the permanent head coaching position in favor of Frank Reich.

San Francisco 49ers

On February 9, 2023, it was reported that the San Francisco 49ers hired Wilks as their defensive coordinator. During the 2023 NFL Combine, 49ers' general manager John Lynch confirmed that Wilks was hired as their defensive coordinator.[20] On February 14, 2024, he was fired following their loss in Super Bowl LVIII.[21]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Savannah State Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1999)
1999 Savannah State 5–6 3–4
Savannah State: 5–6 3–4
Total: 5–6


Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
ARI 2018 3 13 0 .188 4th in NFC West
ARI total 3 13 0 .188
CAR* 2022 6 6 0 .500 2nd in NFC South
CAR total 6 6 0 .500
Total 9 19 0 .321 0 0 .000

* – Interim head coach

Personal life

Wilks is a Christian.[22] He is married to Marcia Wilks. They have two daughters and one son.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Chicago Bears". Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2007.
  2. ^ "Steve Wilks". Retrieved May 18, 2024.
  3. ^ "Steve Wilks Records by Year". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on January 1, 2019. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  4. ^ Biggs, Brad (December 30, 2008). "Bears make coaching move". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on January 1, 2009.
  5. ^ Cox, Seth (January 22, 2018). "Steve Wilks will bring a different, yet more aggressive defensive style to the desert". Revenge of the Birds. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  6. ^ "Steve Wilks: "You Guys Made The Right Decision"". Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  7. ^ "PFF News & Analysis | PFF".
  8. ^ "Super Bowl 50 - Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers - February 7th, 2016". Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  9. ^ "Sean McDermott hired as Buffalo Bills' new head coach". Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  10. ^ "Giants interview Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks". Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  11. ^ "Steve Wilks Named New Cardinals Head Coach". Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  12. ^ "Cardinals routed 24–6 by Redskins in Wilks' debut". AP News. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  13. ^ "There's One: Cardinals Get Just Enough In Win Over 49ers". Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  14. ^ "Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals Team Encyclopedia". Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  15. ^ "Steve Wilks fired by Cardinals after one year with team". Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  16. ^ "Browns add Todd Monken and Steve Wilks as coordinators". January 14, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  17. ^ "Source: Missouri Tigers hiring former Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks as DC". ESPN. January 21, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  18. ^ Gantt, Darin (February 9, 2022). "Panthers bring back Steve Wilks". Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  19. ^ "BREAKING: Panthers Fire Matt Rhule". October 10, 2022. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  20. ^ "49ers Hire Defensive Coordinator, Announce Other Coaching Staff Hires". March 23, 2023. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  21. ^ Inman, Cam (February 14, 2024). "49ers fire defensive coordinator Steve Wilks in aftermath of Super Bowl LVIII loss". The Mercury News. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  22. ^ Mercer, Kevin (November 16, 2022). "Charlotte native Steve Wilks thankful to God to be Panthers interim head coach". Sports Spectrum. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  23. ^ "Steve Wilks". Retrieved November 18, 2022.