Ron Rivera didn't waste any time finding a replacement for former DB Coach Ron Meeks. In fact, he already knew who he wanted all along: he wanted a guy he was very familiar with after working with him in San Diego and Chicago during his tenures as Defensive Coordinator. He wanted Steve Wilks.
Well, Rivera got his man, as the Panthers have agreed to bring in the former Chargers DB Coach to the same position on Rivera's staff. Wilks will be in charge of coaching one of the biggest weaknesses of the Panthers' defense: a secondary that sans Chris Gamble is filled with a group of JAGS who really didn't do much of anything last season other than miss crucial tackles or give up huge backbreaking plays that contributed to several Panthers losses.
Hopefully, Wilks is the man to change that.
It won't be anything new to Wilks, who inherited a unit in San Diego that ranked second to last in pass defense (31st). He helped the unit move up 20 spots to No. 11 against the pass in 2009 before ranking No. 1 overall in 2010. In that 2010 season, the Chargers allowed 18 touchdown passes, fifth-lowest in the league, and opposing passers had an average rating of 76.2, the fourth-lowest in the NFL. In 2011, the Chargers were 13th in pass defense, which is an improvement over the Panthers' 24th ranked pass defense from this season.
Wilks also seems to be a players' coach, as two former Bears players have weighed in on the hire.
Per Darin Gantt:
Chris is a fan of Panthers new DB coach hire. RT @ChrisHarrisNFL: Wilks is awesome
Another former Bears DB endorses Wilks. Contract's all that kept him from here last year. RT @TruMcBride: I agree. Wilks is an awesome coach
It's nice to know that the only reason he wasn't in Charlotte this year is because he was contractually obligated to stay in San Diego in 2011. (We would have had to promote him to take him, as he was the Assistant HC in San Diego -- the only promotion would have been Defensive Coordinator, and we had already hired Sean McDermott.) When Rivera brought in Sean McDermott to be the Defensive Coordinator, I found it strange that he decided to keep Ron Meeks on board since they run two completely different defensive philosophies, but I trusted Ron Rivera and believed that he knew what he was doing.
In retrospect, the decision to keep Meeks for one more year makes sense, because there's no point in bringing in someone new when you already know who you're going to hire in 2012 anyway. So, it appears that Rivera knew what he was doing after all.
How do you feel about this hire, Panthers Nation? Feel free to sound off in the comments section -- let's hear it!
Hat tip to Jake Humphrey for being the first to break this story via fan shot.