Cardinals officially announce hiring of Panthers' DC Steve Wilks as head coach

The Arizona Cardinals are done with their coaching search sooner than anyone expected after announcing on Monday they were hiring Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as their next head coach. 

Arizona was the one remaining team without a coach, at least based on reports, but now it appears the NFL's vacancies have been filled, with president Michael Bidwell and GM Steve Keim ultimately deciding to go with Wilks. 

The Cardinals' other primary other targets in their search ended up in the Super Bowl: Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz were all considered top candidates for the job. Arizona could have interviewed them again this week, but the timing of hiring a coach who is in the middle of a Super Bowl run is tricky and hardly guaranteed.

Wilks was a top-end candidate who didn't have the same sizzle as other coaches out there, almost reminiscent of the Bruce Arians hire for the Cardinals in 2013. Arians was closer to Mike Zimmer in terms of being a name who'd been bandied about but never actually given a real shot for a head-coaching job. Wilks stepped into the role vacated by Sean McDermott this season and changed the Panthers defense in a positive way.

He was really aggressive, blitzing more than 44 percent of the time (the league average was 29.3 percent), according to Pro Football Focus data. And it paid off, with Carolina putting together a stout defense that pressured quarterbacks and was third in the league in sacks with 50. 

Speaking of aggressive, how about the way in which Wilks and Keim kicked it off? Hanging on the beach and rolling up to meet your future boss.

Wilks will take over a roster that has issues. The Cardinals don't have a quarterback under contract, but they were in a bad spot in 2013 as well and that worked out fine. Defensively, there are a lot of nice, unique pieces for Wilks to work with, and he should have help from the Carolina staff as well.

The question now will be who he brings in as his offensive coordinator. Wilks will need some heavy lifting on the offensive side of the ball, but there is a good structure in place to make this work off the bat. 

Wilks was considered a hot coaching candidate coming into the process, but sort of drifted to the side as Patriots coordinators Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels got most of the heat in coaching searches. He was on our initial list of candidates to replace Arians in the desert.

McDaniels (Colts) and Patricia (Lions) are believed to be secure in their next destination. The Raiders hired Jon Gruden officially, the Titans did the same with Mike Vrabel, and the Giants are expected to announce Vikings OC Pat Shurmur as their next coach after Minnesota's NFC Championship Game loss. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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