Steve Wilks oozes class until the end despite Carolina Panthers snub

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

Steve Wilks’ heartfelt statement after being snubbed for the Carolina Panthers head coaching job typified his integrity and class until the end. 

There was strong support behind Steve Wilks and his claims to be Carolina Panthers head coach. Players and fans were fully on board with his leadership after turning around a dismal situation in the wake of Matt Rhule’s enforced departure, which almost brought a shock NFC South title triumph when all hope seemed lost.

David Tepper stated that Wilks needed to do an incredible job to be considered for the job long term. But after a thorough interview process, the billionaire went in a different direction and hired Frank Reich instead.

This brought a largely positive reaction among the team’s loyal fanbase. Even if there was a great deal of sympathy for Wilks after he gave so much to the franchise in 2022.

Steve Wilks remained dignified after his Carolina Panthers snub

Wilks released a statement outlining he was “disappointed but not defeated“. It also spoke volumes of the man’s integrity and class despite things nothing going the way he wanted or perhaps even deserved.

"“I’m disappointed but not defeated. Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through. It was an honor for me to coach those men in the Carolina Panthers locker room as the interim head coach. Players, coaches and staff, thank you for your hard work and dedication. I took pride in representing Charlotte, a great city that I love so much. Thank you to my family, friends and the community for your overwhelming support. I do wish Frank Reich all the best. I will always be a fan of the Carolina Panthers Football Team.”"

This statement was a far cry from what the lawyers representing Wilks and others in Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit against the NFL had to say. There’s no doubt he is a proud man, but even in the face of hardship, the former Arizona Cardinals head coach remained dignified and proud to have led his hometown team.

Even if it was only briefly.

One cannot speak highly enough of Wilks. Both for the job he did as interim and the person he is.

The respected figure is a supreme leader. Someone players and fans alike gravitate towards and this was enough to reinstall a level of pride and professionalism that was non-existent under Rhule.

Tepper’s allure for an offensive mind to lead the Panthers moving forward was too much for Wilks to overcome. Reich’s credentials are well established and he knows exactly what makes Carolina football tick having been the team’s quarterback during their debut NFL campaign.

What comes next for Wilks is undecided. Reports that the Atlanta Falcons are ready to swoop might mean he remains in the NFC South, but additional employment won’t be long in the offing based on his exceptional track record in various coaching roles.

This is a time for excitement with Reich’s new era beginning. However, it’s also tinted with sadness as Wilks leaves the organization he galvanized in difficult circumstances.

Wilks will inspire and excel wherever he ends up next. And every Panthers fan will be rooting heavily for a man that gave them a sense of belonging once again.

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