In what has been the most active week of mysterious developments for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching search, Steve Wilks has reported that he will not be interviewing. Before this announcement it was assumed that he was in Indianapolis meeting with Chris Ballard today.
This is a shocking development because Wilks is easily one of the most experienced candidates and was an early target for an interview. He has been coaching since 1995, including 11 years in college. He got his first NFL opportunity with the Chicago Bears in 2006. For 10 years he served as a defensive backs coach for Chicago, San Diego, and the Carolina Panthers. In 2017, he stepped up into the defensive coordinator role in Carolina.
Chris Blystone wrote a story breaking down Wilks as a candidate earlier this week. He helped paint the picture of how successful Carolina’s defense has been during his tenure.
From 2012-2016, the Panther’s pass defense never ranked below 11th according to Football Outsiders. In 2013 and 2015 they were ranked 3rd and 2nd respectively. This season with Wilks at the helm of the defense, the team is 9th in overall team defense.
It is very clear that Wilks has been a part of some very impressive defensive play, particularly in the secondary. Much like Kris Richard, Wilks could have the pedigree the Colts were hoping to find with Chuck Pagano.
What is less clear from the story is whether there is any validity to the claim that Ballard is looking more interested in finding a candidate on the offensive side of the ball. The known candidates so far include young defensive specialists in Mike Vrabel and Kris Richard. Matt Rhule interviewed earlier this week with collegiate coaching experience and exposure to both sides of the ball. The two offensive specialists that we know of at this point are Matt Nagy — who is now the Chicago Bears head coach — and Josh McDaniels.
It leaves fans and the media to scramble a bit. If a defensive candidate is not being seriously considered it would likely strike Vrabel and Richard off of the list. Rhule just announced that he will be sticking with Baylor. With Nagy going to the Bears, this leaves only McDaniels as a clear front-runner at this point.
This also adds to the speculation that the Colts are holding out for additional candidates and will complete other interviews -- likely ones that are still in the playoffs. It increases the chances that Ballard is doing exactly as he said, taking a rare opportunity to get in front of candidates who he has spent years compiling into a binder he brought with him to his own interview just one year ago.
We will continue tracking development and provide updates as they come.