Steve Wilks
San Francisco 49ers
Position:Defensive coordinator
Personal information
Born: (1969-08-08) August 8, 1969 (age 53)
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
Career information
High school:West Charlotte (NC)
College:Appalachian State
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 who is the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He was the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. He has also been the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers, and the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Missouri.

Wilks is a two-time NFC Champion, winning with the Bears in 2006 and with the Panthers in 2015, losing the Super Bowl on both 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 head football coach at Savannah State College for one season (1999) and compiled a record of 5–6.[3]

Chicago Bears

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

San Diego Chargers

Wilks was hired as defensive backs coach of the San Diego Chargers in 2009 when former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera moved to the same position in San Diego.[5]

Carolina Panthers

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's 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's interview with the Los Angeles Rams in the previous offseason before they eventually hired Sean McVay. Wilks interviewed with the New York Giants who had hired his former boss in Carolina, ex-Panthers general manager David Gettleman.[10]

Arizona Cardinals

On January 22, 2018, Wilks was hired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, replacing Bruce Arians, who initially retired after the 2017 season before coming out of retirement in early 2019 to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[11] In the 2018 season opener against the Washington Redskins, Wilks made his head coaching debut in the 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 an NFL-worst 3–13 record and 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 under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.


On January 21, 2021, Wilks 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, the Panthers 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]

San Francisco 49ers

On February 9, 2023, it was reported that the San Francisco 49ers hired Wilks as their defensive coordinator. Then, during the 2023 NFL Combine, 49ers general manager John Lynch confirmed that Wilks was hired as their defensive coordinator. [20]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Savannah State (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.[21] He is married to Marcia Wilks. They have two daughters and one son.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Chicago Bears". Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2007.
  2. ^ "Steve Wilks AFL stats".
  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. ^ Mercer, Kevin (November 16, 2022). "Charlotte native Steve Wilks thankful to God to be Panthers interim head coach". Sports Spectrum. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  22. ^ "Steve Wilks". Retrieved November 18, 2022.