BEREA, Ohio — Does the National Football League have a diversity problem in its coaching ranks?
That is the question being asked in league circles after five of the eight head coaches that were fired the day after the conclusion of the 2018 regular season were minorities. Of the openings, only one was filled by a minority candidate.
Despite being one of the five fired, along with Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos), Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals) and Todd Bowles (New York Jets), new Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks believes the NFL’s Rooney Rule still is benefitting minority candidates.
“I do think it is working,” Wilks said. “Every owner has their own expectations and the things they want. I think it is about production.
“It is about winning. Does it take time? Yes. You look at any Fortune 500 company in the United States, they will tell you that when someone comes in and takes it over, it is going to take some time. You just wish you had that time. I think the Rooney Rule is working. I think it is effective. The coaches have to understand that this is a production-based business. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach and front-office openings
Wilks has nearly 20 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional ranks.
Prior to his one year as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Wilks held the defensive backs coach position for the Chicago Bears (2006-2008), San Diego Chargers (2009-2011) and Carolina Panthers (2012-2014). Wilks added assistant head coach to his defensive backs duties with the Panthers in 2015 and 2016.
Then, for the 2017 season, Wilks retained the title of assistant head coach while being elevated to defensive coordinator.
Wilks was given just one season and rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to help turn around the Cardinals, and after a 3-13 finish, which locked up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, he was relieved of his duties.
“This is a production-based league,” Wilks said. “We did not win enough games. Would I have liked to have more time? Of course, but again, I put that behind me. They have moved on, I have moved on and I am so excited to be here as a Cleveland Brown.”
Rather than lament the brief opportunity he had in Arizona, Wilks interviewed for and became the Browns’ new coordinator, and the organization got a motivated coach to run the defense.
“That is just what I love to do and having the passion and love to be around the game, and to be honest, when things like that happen, you want to get right back to work,” Wilks said. “I was very excited to do that and most importantly, do it here.
“I have had a chip on my shoulder my whole life. It started at Division II Johnson C. Smith University, where I am lining the field and washing clothes. I have always had a chip on my shoulder. That is the reason I am sitting before you guys today. That does not give me any more motivation. I am about trying to be the best that I can be at my craft. I want to try to make this defense the best in the National Football League.”