When Steve Wilks was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, many of us thought he was given a sincere opportunity to build something special in the desert.
We were so very painfully wrong.
Wilks, the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator at the time, signed a four-year deal with Arizona to become their head coach. He inherited a strong defensive unit featuring Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. They also had young rising stars like safety Budda Baker and linebacker Haason Reddick.
That was a dream for a defensive coordinator.
But the NFL transitioned into a pass-first league, and Wilks’ offense paled in comparison to his defense.
His quarterbacks were an aging Carson Palmer and an underwhelming Blaine Gabbert. And other than future Hall of Famers Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson, who were both in the twilights of their amazing careers, the Cardinals lacked talent
So not much was expected from the team, which meant that Wilks would have the opportunity to build.
But team management had other ideas.
First, they drafted QB Josh Rosen out of UCLA, one of the worst picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. That includes Baker Mayfield going number one overall and Sam Darnold going to the Jets at pick three.
The Bills selected Josh Allen three picks before the Cardinals, but Arizona had the chance to select talent and playmakers over Rosen from a list of players including D.J. Moore, Nick Chubb, Shaquille Leonard and Courtland Sutton.
But GM Steve Keim wanted a quarterback, and Rosen had enamored fans with a solid junior season at UCLA, so he went for it.
His mistake was one that every team seeking a QB that year, except the Bills and Ravens, made.
Passing on Lamar Jackson.
That single draft essentially sealed Wilks’ fate. The offense was horrendous and the team finished 3-13.
Keim failed to provide Wilks with offensive talent and, even worse, didn’t allow him the chance to improve the unit in year two as Wilks was fired.
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