Is Steve Wilks becoming an afterthought in Carolina Panthers search?

(Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks
(Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) Steve Wilks /

Is interim appointment Steve Wilks becoming an afterthought as the Carolina Panthers continue searching for their next head coach in 2023?

Even though general manager Scott Fitterer claimed that the list of potential head coaching candidates would be small, it’s clear team owner David Tepper had other ideas. The Carolina Panthers are frantically interviewing every potential arrival before discussions begin on a formal appointment, which will shape the long and short-term future of the franchise at a critical time.

While the Panthers are right to examine the shiny new offensive minds given the current trend across the league, what this means for Steve Wilks is less certain. The interim did a sensational job in difficult circumstances after replacing Matt Rhule, who wasn’t cut out for the NFL and hasn’t been missed in the slightest since his deserved removal.

Wilks inspired everyone across the franchise. More importantly, the Panthers went a respectable 6-6 under his leadership, which was a significant step in the right direction after languishing with the bottom feeders for so long.

Carolina Panthers could appoint someone other than Steve Wilks

Many players – past and present – have thrown their support behind Wilks to secure the head coaching job in 2023. He was one of the first candidates interviewed by those in power, but is the respected figure becoming an afterthought in the team’s process?

Multiple reports suggest Tepper has his eyes on an offensive guru to lead the Panthers moving forward. Aside from Wilks, every candidate has this mantra, although that could change if time can be set for DeMeco Ryans to state his case after another masterful play-calling exhibition during the San Francisco 49ers’ playoff rout over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Panthers know what they’re getting in Wilks. He is a supreme leader of men that worked miracles with limited resources, so the promise of additional improvements with more time is distinctly possible if Carolina went down this route.

Most sportsbooks have Wilks among the leading candidates, although they are leaning toward Ben Johnson as the consensus favorite. The Detroit Lions offensive coordinator is scheduled for an in-person interview on Wednesday, which could swing the pendulum in his favor in front of Carolina’s brass.

Wilks can only worry about himself at the end of the day. He has the credentials, the track record, and the support of fans and players alike, but that might not be enough if Tepper falls in love with someone else.

This is entirely possible based on the billionaire’s previous decision-making regarding team affairs. Wilks still has a shot, but until something is confirmed one way or another, the doubts are going to surface and grow with every passing day.

The Panthers must get this decision right. Going through the process thoroughly is imperative, but completely ignoring Wilks’ contribution when Carolina was staring into the abyss would be foolish.

Talk of Wilks sticking around as a defensive coordinator under any head coach preferred over him is disrespectful. But opportunities could be limited elsewhere depending on how long the Panthers drag this process out.

Wilks is a proud man who deserves a fair chance to lead his hometown team. However, the NFL rarely works like that and it does seem like the pendulum is swinging against him currently.

All fans can do is wait and hope that whether it’s Wilks or someone else, the correct head coach is secured to provide genuine hope for the future.

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