Steve Wilks has done more than enough on an interim basis to become Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2023 and potentially beyond.
It wasn’t pretty, but Steve Wilks signed off his time as interim head coach with a last-gasp victory at the New Orleans Saints. Something that further enhanced his credentials to win the gig beyond the current campaign.
Wilks’ 6-6 record since replacing Matt Rhule is remarkable in the circumstances. The Carolina Panthers were devoid of any confidence or momentum before he assumed command of the franchise, which also saw those in power trade Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey for valuable draft capital to make things even more testing.
One only has to look at the locker room atmosphere to see how Wilks’ methods are being received. A night and day culture from Rhule’s reign of terror and something that’s benefitted the Panthers greatly.
Carolina Panthers cannot ignore Steve Wilks’ impact this season
Numerous players have come out in support of the former Arizona Cardinals head coach, with Shaq Thompson stating he plans to speak to team owner David Tepper about formally endorsing Wilks on behalf of those currently on the roster.
Tepper is going to interview plenty of candidates alongside Wilks, who is scheduled to meet the Panthers’ brass on Tuesday according to Joe Person of The Athletic. But the billionaire – who’s made some poor decisions since buying the organization from Jerry Richardson – should not look a gift horse in the mouth where the interim is concerned.
This is a man deeply connected to the Carolinas and knows exactly what makes the franchise tick. Wilks restored the culture in double-quick time, installed a level of professionalism that was seldom seen under Rhule, and gave fans hope for the first time in a while.
While the bright young offensive mind could also provide assistance. The aforementioned traits are unique to Wilks given his association with the Panthers and his deep love for the region where he resides.
There have been times when the Panthers have faltered under Wilks. Most notably against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers when significant opportunities presented themselves. However, considering the hand he was dealt and the circumstances surrounding his appointment, it’s been far better than anyone anticipated over the last 12 games.
Wilks was keen to live in the now when asked about his future moving forward. But it speaks volumes about the man that his primary focus was on the players who’ve given everything to the cause since his promotion.
"“It’s not about me. It’s about those men in that locker room. It’s about this organization, the coaching staff, support staff. Everybody pulled together this year to endure all of the things that we had to go through. It’s just not just me. So, I just commend everybody in this organization the way we just rallied and pulled together.”"
Tepper cannot help getting in his own way when it comes to football decisions. Whether the billionaire’s massive failure with Rhule alters his thought process remains to be seen, but Wilks did more than enough to earn the opportunity to form a coaching staff capable of getting the Panthers back into contention.
We might have to wait a while – especially if Tepper wants to interview hot names such as Shane Steichen and DeMeco Ryans – before an official announcement arrives. After his interview, it’s a waiting game for Wilks, but he can hold his head high regardless of what comes next.