Steve Wilks: Cardinals will be 'active and aggressive' in search for QB

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Steve Wilks didn't need anyone else to bring it up.

He knew it'd be a topic during his news conference Tuesday introducing him as the Arizona Cardinals' new head coach. How could it not be?

Wilks, 48, just became a first-time head coach -- for a team without a quarterback.

"There's a question mark right now, we all know," Wilks said. "It's the elephant in the room. We don't have a quarterback."

The Cardinals don't currently have a quarterback under contract for 2018 now that Carson Palmer announced his retirement on Jan. 2. While not having a quarterback didn't hinder the Cardinals in their search for a coach to replace the Quarterback Whisperer -- Bruce Arians -- general manager Steve Keim said, it was a topic that Wilks discussed with Keim and team president Michael Bidwill during his two interviews.

But Wilks has a plan.

"We're going to have a very active and aggressive plan through free agency, and we'll see exactly what's going to happen within the draft," Wilks said. "But we're going to put a quality team on the field that's going to give us an opportunity to win each and every week."

Before Wilks can find the Cardinals' next starting quarterback, he needs to find the men who will coach him.

Wilks reportedly interviewed both Darrell Bevell and Mike McCoy to be the Cardinals' offensive coordinator. Eventually, he'll also hire a quarterback's coach. He hopes to have his staff finalized by the Super Bowl.

Those hires, Keim believes, will be more critical to a quarterback's success than Wilks.

"They're not the No. 1 influence," Keim said. "In a lot of situations where you've got to make sure you're hiring the right offensive coordinator, the quarterback coach is so essential. And really more than anything, it's the message from the coordinator to the quarterback coach to the player that's so important, to make sure everybody's on the same page."

Keim also thinks that Wilks' background as a defensive coach -- he had served in multiple roles with the Carolina Panthers since 2012, including coordinator last season -- will benefit the Cardinals' next wave of quarterbacks.

"When you're talking about a defensive-minded guy, by nature, sometimes they're just as critical to a quarterback's success because he can teach him what he's looking at," Keim said. "Whether it's disguising coverage, whether it's the way they roll coverage, whether it's pre-snap stuff."

Keim referred to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum as an example. The five-year veteran had the best season of his career in 2017 while playing for a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer.

"It's about the system you have in place," Keim said. "I think there can be too much read into it."

Then Wilks will be able to focus on the quarterback position. Free agency begins March 14, giving Wilks seven weeks to get his plan organized.

"We're going to make sure we bring the right one in," Wilks said. "He's going to fit our offense, whatever we come up with, but most important, he's going to have the character that we want."

Keim was asked what's easier: Finding a coach or finding a quarterback. The general manager chuckled -- a quarterback, he answered.

"It's supply and demand," Keim said. "It's the difference between guys that are playing, guys you can win with and guys you can win a championship with. At the end of the day, we've got to find a guy we can win a championship with. Obviously, David Johnson takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback because of the things he does schematically, whether it's running the football or creating mismatches in the passing game.

"But there's no doubt that we have to be aggressive at that position. We have to find the right fit. The NFC Championship Game just showed you that guys are doing it from different backgrounds. You don't have to be a first pick in the draft. So, we'll have to trust our instincts again through the process and make the right decisions picking players."