Ringing endorsements speak volumes to Steve Wilks’ impact

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks /

A series of ringing endorsements for Steve Wilks to become Carolina Panthers head coach beyond 2022 speak volumes about his immediate impact.

It’s been just a few weeks since the gloomy cloud of Matt Rhule’s reign was lifted from the Carolina Panthers. However, interim head coach Steve Wilks has already made a strong case to win the job permanently beyond the 2022 campaign.

This was a no-win situation for Wilks, in all honesty. A task that was made even more complicated by the Panthers’ decision to trade running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver Robbie Anderson before the deadline – moves that gave Carolina some financial flexibility and additional draft assets to potentially build for the future.

That didn’t make Wilks’ job any easier. But the improved professionalism, preparation, and cohesion within the locker room has seen the Panthers go 2-3 under his leadership so far, which is far greater than Rhule managed to accomplish during what was supposed to be his big Year 3 of dramatic improvements.

Wilks knows what Carolina football is all about. He was part of the fabric when this team was in legitimate Super Bowl contention, which resulted in the respected figure getting the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job because of his exceptional contribution.

Steve Wilks is “the right man” for Carolina Panthers’ job

Rhule’s misfortune is looking like Wilks’ gain. Perhaps the biggest indicator of all is the glowing praise coming from established players, who’ve made no secret of their desire to have him installed permanently.

Cam Erving has been around the block with various teams across the league. The offensive lineman sees something different in Wilks, something that Panthers players are responding to positively in pursuit of progression at long last.

"“He’s the right man for the job. I’ve had a lot of coaches, man, and you don’t get the feeling from everybody that you get from Coach Wilks. The results may not always be there as far as wins, but the guys are buying in and that’s what’s key to turning an organization around.’’"

This is a sentiment echoed by outside linebacker Shaq Thompson, one of the last remaining roster members that played under Wilks previously. The former first-round selection highlighted the improved chemistry on and off the field, which stems from the coach returning to a physical style of football that focuses on winning in the trenches.

"“He’s already done a phenomenal job. You can see everybody is coming together, playing fast, playing physical, playing hard. And he knows Charlotte. He knows Carolina. I mean, he’s a hometown guy. Everybody loves and respects him.’’"

The respect is there. The ethos is developing and results are gradually progressing.

It won’t be perfect and there could be further failures to come before the 2022 campaign concludes. But if team owner David Tepper listened to his players, then Wilks would be among the frontrunners despite his reported intent to go with an offensive young mind with a new quarterback potentially coming into the fold.

Only time will tell, obviously. And his eventual fate will be the last thing on Wilks’ mind right now as he continues stamping his own mark on the Panthers.

But the ringing endorsements from players working with him every day are a true testament to the impact made by Wilks in such a short space of time.

After all that Carolina’s long-suffering fanbase was put through during Rhule’s disastrous three years at the helm, having an exciting team to cheer and be proud of is more than enough currently.

Should Wilks get the position long-term, then the real hope can begin.

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