What have Carolina Panthers players said about their interim coach Steve Wilks?
Despite his penchant for impulsive spending and the fact that his interim coach has little experience, Panthers owner David Tepper would do well to listen to the wishes of his players.
In any professional team sport, it’s not often that terms like ‘interim’ or ‘caretaker’ inspire confidence when it comes to the coach, yet it would appear that the Panthers feel very strongly about the man who’s been steering the ship during this uncertain time.
Panthers players want Steve Wilks as their coach
You may or may not know this, but it’s been a tough time recently for the Carolina Panthers. Indeed, at the time that they fired now former head coach Matt Rhule, the team was sitting on a 1-4 record and were a decent vote for ‘worst team in the league.’ Not long after Rhule was shown the door, the Panthers looked like a team hell bent on scrapping the season in the name of rebuild, when they traded their best player, running back Christian McCaffrey, to the San Francisco 49ers with no discernable replacement coming in the opposite direction. Indeed, most thought that when Steve Wilks was named as interim coach, it was simply because there needed to be a coach.
Fast forward a few weeks and we’ve got ourselves a very different picture. Now it goes without saying, that Wilks isn’t a high-profile name in the business. This isn’t the kind of guy that has the media hanging on his every word like Bill Belichick or Sean McVay for example, but it appears that’s irrelevant, as the Panthers roster has made it very clear that they want Wilks who it must be said has done a very good job since taking the reins. Speaking on behalf of his teammates on Wednesday, defensive tackle Derrick Brown gave an idea of where the team stands. “If you ask anybody in this locker room, we want Steve Wilks to be our next head coach.” Then there was cornerback Jaycee Horn quoted Brown in a tweet. In truth, a number of players have got behind the idea of keeping Wilks on. “We ride behind Wilks,” linebacker Shaq Thompson said in December. “He came in here, he’s a true alpha, he’s a true leader, and guys follow behind him. He’s done amazing. Look what we’ve been going through.”
Steve Wilks by the numbers
Since Wilks has been in charge, the Panthers have gone 5-6 which really isn’t that bad when you consider the 4-1 record that he inherited as mentioned before. Across his stretch, the Panthers not only played good football, but they’ve got themselves some slick wins. Just last week, they still had a shot in the NFC South, until they were finally derailed in the fourth quarter by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s worth noting that prior to this stint in Carolina, Wilks has only ever had one other coaching gig and that was with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. At that time, he had just taken over from Bruce Arians who retired and had to immediately face the loss of quarterback Carson Palmer to injury. With rookie Josh Rosen for the large majority of the season, Wilks and Co. would struggle to a 3-13 record. Needless to say, after just one season Wilks was let go.
“This is a production-based league, and we didn’t win enough games,” Wilks said in 2019. “Would I have liked to have had more time? Of course. But again, I put that behind me. They’ve moved on. I’ve moved on.”
What are Steve Wilks’ chances of being given Panthers job permanently?
To be honest, the situation is hard to read. On one side, the public backing from Panthers of players is significant. On the other, Panthers owner David Tepper has a history of erratic behavior when it comes to spending. There are also recent reports of Tepper having conversation with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh who has hinted at the idea of a return to the NFL. Between Tepper’s impulsiveness and the Harbaugh speculation, it would seem that Wilks isn’t even a consideration. Yet, we should again consider the idea that the players have now spoken and in fairness, it’s not like Wilks hasn’t made his mark this season. At this point, all we can do is watch this space.
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