Steve Wilks returned to Carolina as defensive pass game coordinator in February of 2022 after he was with Carolina from 2012-17. He was hired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 and was defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2019. He spent the 2021 season as defensive coordinator at Missouri. Wilks has over 25 years of coaching experience at the college and NFL level.
Steve Wilks returns to Carolina as the defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach in 2022. A native of Charlotte with over 25 seasons of coaching experience in the college and NFL ranks, including head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, Wilks returns to a Panthers defense that helped mold into one of the league's best during his previous stint from 2012-17.
Wilks was a part of six teams that reached the NFL playoffs, including Super Bowl appearances with the Chicago Bears (Super Bowl XLI) and Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl 50). During his 14 seasons in the NFL, five players earned All-Pro recognition under his guidance.
He comes home after a season as defensive coordinator at Missouri in 2021. He was previously the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2019, where the Browns' passing defense ranked seventh in the NFL, allowing just 216.9 yards per game.
Prior to Cleveland, Wilks spent the 2018 season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals where once again, his team's pass defense thrived. The 2018 Cardinals ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (210.0) as he helped mentor Patrick Peterson to a first-team All-Pro selection.
In his previous stint in Carolina (2012-17), he served as the team's defensive backs coach (2012-16) and defensive coordinator (2017), while also serving as assistant head coach to Ron Rivera from 2015-17. Carolina made four playoff appearances and won the 2015 NFC Championship. The Panthers' defense finished in the NFL's top 10 in total defense in five of Wilks' six seasons on staff, including finishing second in 2013 and seventh in 2017, his lone season as defensive coordinator.
In Carolina's record-breaking 2015 season, Wilks helped coach Josh Norman to a first-team All-Pro selection as the Panthers ranked sixth in scoring defense (19.3) and 11th in passing yards per game (234.5). In 2017, Wilks was elevated to defensive coordinator and oversaw an improvement from 21st to seventh in total defense (317.1 ypg) for the Panthers. That 2017 defense also ranked third in rush defense (88.1 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (20.4), as linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive tackle Kawann Short earned All-Pro honors.
Prior to Carolina, Wilks spent three seasons with the San Diego Chargers (2009-11) and three seasons with the Chicago Bears (2006-08), coaching the defensive backs at both stops. In San Diego, the Chargers led the NFL in total defense (271.6 ypg) and pass defense (177.8 ypg), while he helped mentor Eric Weddle to back-to-back All-Pro selections, earning first-team honors in 2011 and second-team honors in 2012. In Chicago, Wilks helped coach the Bears to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, his first in the NFL. The Bears earned top seed in the NFC Playoffs after a 13-3 record in 2006 and were led by a stout defense that ranked as the NFL's third-best.
Prior to his 14 years in the NFL, Wilks spent 11 seasons coaching at eight schools at the collegiate level, including a one-year stint as a head coach at Savannah State (1999), and at Power 5 programs Notre Dame (2004) and Washington (2005), where he coached the defensive backs. Wilks served as the Defensive Coordinator at Johnson C. Smith (1995-96), Savannah State (1997-98) and East Tennessee State (2002), and coached the defensive backs at Illinois State (2000), Appalachian State (2001) and Bowling Green (2003).
Wilks was a defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 where he helped the Mountaineers capture the Southern Conference Championship in 1987 and 1991. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and played one season with the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993, playing defensive back and wide receiver.
Wilks earned his bachelor's degree in communications from Appalachian State in 1991. He and his wife, Marcia, have two daughters, Marissa and Melanni, and a son, Steven James.
- 1987-91 | Appalachian State
- 1993 | Charlotte Rage (AFL)
- 1995-96 | Johnson C. Smith | Defensive Coordinator
- 1997-98 | Savannah State | Defensive Coordinator
- 1999 | Savannah State | Head Coach
- 2000 | Illinois State | Defensive Backs
- 2001 | Appalachian State | Defensive Backs
- 2002 | East Tennessee State | Defensive Coordinator
- 2003 | Bowling Green | Defensive Backs
- 2004 | Notre Dame | Defensive Backs
- 2005 | University of Washington | Secondary
- 2006-08 | Chicago Bears | Defensive Backs
- 2009-11 | San Diego Chargers | Defensive Backs
- 2012-14 | Carolina Panthers | Defensive Backs
- 2015-16 | Carolina Panthers | Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs
- 2017 | Carolina Panthers | Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
- 2018 | Arizona Cardinals | Head Coach
- 2019 | Cleveland Browns | Defensive Coordinator
- 2021 | University of Missouri | Defensive Coordinator
- 2022-pres | Carolina Panthers | Defensive Pass Game Coordinator/Secondary