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The Cardinals were the only team to hire a minority head coach this cycle

By Conor Orr
January 22, 2018

The Arizona Cardinals hired Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks on Monday, making the 48-year-old Appalachian State alum their choice to replace Bruce Arians and, hopefully, wrangle their cast of high-profile defensive stars.

According to NFL Network, Wilks made his case on the beach, approaching general manager Steve Keim while both were vacationing in the same place. Assuming the Colts (Josh McDaniels) and Lions (Matt Patricia) stick with their dance partners over the next few weeks, the coaching carousel has now stopped.

The hiring of Wilks is encouraging for multiple reasons, but most notably it ends this hiring cycle on a high note for the embattled Fritz Pollard Alliance. The group, which advocates for minority coaching and general manager hires, watched the number of minority head coaches dip to seven following the firing of Lions head coach Jim CaldwellThey also watched as the Oakland Raiders comically tried to circumnavigate the Rooney Rule by forcing through a pair of head coaching interviews while negotiating with Jon Gruden on the side. In this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King called it “tokenism,” and there were plenty of high-profile people around the league who concurred.

Wilks is more than qualified, having been an NFL coach since 2006, an assistant head coach since 2015, and remaking the Panthers defense is his own image last season, taking a blitz-heavy approach. He joins Todd Bowles (Jets), ​Hue Jackson (Browns), ​Vance Joseph (Broncos), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Anthony Lynn (Chargers), ​Ron Rivera (Panthers) and Mike Tomlin (Steelers) as the league’s head coaches of color. The current total (eight) is tied for the highest number of minority head coaches in NFL history.

Still, the NFL is loaded with talented minority candidates who get little to no buzz during hiring season. As Rooney Rule advocate Tony Dungy told me a few weeks ago, even if teams aren’t hiring minority candidates, if they embodied the spirit of the Rooney Rule and took their time during a hiring cycle, they might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Here’s a look at some minority candidates in high-profile coaching positions that I’ll bet you didn’t hear a word about this winter: Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator, Bills), Mike Caldwell (assistant head coach, Jets), Kacy Rodgers (defensive coordinator, Jets), Frank Bush (assistant head coach, Dolphins), Shawn Jefferson (assistant head coach, offense, Dolphins), Eric Bieniemy (offensive coordinator, Chiefs), George Stewart (special teams coordinator, assistant head coach, Chargers), Joe Woods (defensive coordinator, Broncos), Raheem Morris (passing game coordinator, receivers coach and assistant head coach, Falcons), George Edwards (defensive coordinator, Vikings).

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1. The Giants have a new head coach: Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. He now heads straight to Mobile, a beautiful respite from his introductory press conference.

2. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars are set up to have one of the most fascinating contractual square dances of the offseason. Bortles wants to stay

3. Really interesting question posed by Pro Football Talk: What the heck are the Eagles going to do with Nick Foles after this season? 

4. Bill Belichick or Vince Lombardi? Packers News takes up the debate sure to infuriate Midwesterners for decades. 

5. The Rob Gronkowski concussion saga is ongoing. Luckily, the Patriots love talking about potentially serious injuries to their superstar players.

6. Jared Goff is off to the Pro Bowl, filling the void left behind by Carson Wentz of all people. Will this ever become a cutthroat rivalry

7. Teddy Bridgewater wants to be the Vikings' starter in 2018. This will be a fascinating offseason for team purple. 

8. Pro Football Focus believes that the wide receivers will be dominating the 2018 Senior Bowl hot take circuit. 

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Newsletter proprietor Jacob Feldman was working on other projects Monday night but is back in the saddle Tuesday. I wanted to welcome him back by playing his favorite Hawkwind record but didn't know which one it was. Hopefully it's Warrior On The Edge Of Time

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