Steve Wilks, who coached the Arizona Cardinals one season in 2018 to a 3-13 record and one of the worst seasons the team has had since coming to Arizona, recently added his name to the lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, alleging racist hiring practices for coaches.
His joining the complaint should be no surprise because Flores cited Wilks’ firing as an example of a double standard Black coaches deal with.
However, the complaint plus some details revealed by Wilks to Pro Football Talk make the Cardinals look bad.
We go over them below.
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Wilks gets fired, Keim gets extension
Michael Bidwill, Steve Wilks, Steve Keim
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
No one can argue that the 2018 season wasn’t bad enough to move on from Wilks. They were not competitive and did not seem to be making much progress.
What was surprising was general manager Steve Keim not getting fired. He then got a contract extension after the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury.
In the PFT story about Wilks’ complaint, Wilks claims Keim “had personal responsibility for the team’s performance” and “had engaged in fireable conduct,” but wasn’t fired.
The Cardinals bought out the last three years of Wilks’ deal, paying him not to work. Keim had one year left on his contract and got an extension.
That does look bad, especially after every move Keim made in the prior offseason blew up. Free agent signings didn’t work out. He was arrested for DUI and was suspended.
At the same time, it isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples when dealing with the Keim extension.
I have been on the record as saying Keim should have been fired. But if he was going to be allowed to help hire a new coach, he absolutely had to have his contract extended to work with the new head coach to build the team.
But, again, it does look bad. The Black coach gets fired. The white GM who built the team and got a DUI got extended. Even if it can be justified, it doesn’t pass the eye test.
. Wilks notes that the Cardinals had to buy out three years of his contract, while Keim had only one year remaining on his deal. The team chose to pay Wilks to not work, and to extend Keim’s contract
Wilks wanted Josh Allen
Per the PFT article, “Wilks was ‘stuck with an unready rookie quarterback drafted by [Keim] contrary to Mr. Wilks’ suggestion.’ (Wilks says that he wanted to trade up to draft Josh Allen in 2018, not Josh Rosen.)”
The Buffalo Bills traded up to the seventh overall pick to select Allen. The Cardinals ended up trading up to the 10th overall pick to select Rosen.
In hindsight, obviously they made the wrong choice.
However, it might be incorrect to characterize the situation as the Cardinals refusing to to get Wilks the quarterback he wanted.
After the draft, it was reported that the Cardinals had a deal in place with the Denver Broncos to trade up to the fifth overall and select Allen, their preferred target. The deal never happened because stuff pass rusher Bradley Chubb was on the board and the Broncos decided not to trade the pick.
According to the report, the Cardinals “were heartbroken” they couldn’t draft Allen.
Steve Keim might have violated his suspension
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
While the previous two details Wilks claims can be discredited to some degree, this new part is more damning.
He was suspended in July 2018 for five weeks following his DUI arrest.
According to the PFT report, “Wilks contends that Keim was involved in negotiations on a new contract with running back David Johnson, and that ‘there is evidence of Mr. Keim’s input and participation during his so-called suspension.’
That would technically be a firable offense if the team wanted it that way. It has been documented that contract talks with David Johnson did continue while Keim was suspended.
Keim was reinstated late August. The team announced Johnson’s contract extension in September.