Former Carolina Panthers leap to Steve Wilks' defense after latest scapegoating

Steve Wilks
Steve Wilks / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former Carolina Panthers players came to the defense of Steve Wilks after he was fired as San Francisco 49rs defensive coordinator.

Steve Wilks galvanized the Carolina Panthers in 2022 after Matt Rhule was fired. He didn't do enough to secure the head coaching job permanently. His next destination resulted in a Super Bowl appearance. It did not stop him from becoming a sacrificial lamb once again.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed he'd parted ways with Wilks after they fell short in the Super Bowl. One could argue the defensive performance was way down their list of problems. The Niners blew another double-digit lead on the grandest stage of all. Therefore, a scapegoat for the team's failings was needed.

Wilks was that guy, again. This is despite holding Patrick Mahomes without a touchdown until late in the third quarter. Even then, it came from a special teams blunder that gave the generational quarterback a short field from which to work.

Steve Wilks got support from former Carolina Panthers players

Shanahan can't fire himself. He's blown three Super Bowls now - two as head coach and one as offensive coordinator. His players were unaware of the new overtime rules. One only had to see the reaction of Chiefs players once San Francisco took the football first to see what a mistake it was.

And yet, the defensive coordinator carried the can. This decision probably wasn't down to just one game. Their defeat only cemented Shanahan's belief that the Niners needed a change in approach.

Former Panthers players leaped to Wilks' defense after the news became public knowledge. Tre Boston wasn't shy in portraying his feelings on social media, indicating the coach has a firm target on his back after adding his name to the Brian Flores lawsuit against the NFL.

"If y'all can’t see what’s going on with Steve Wilks! Open your [eyes]! There’s a Target on his back! Which I truly don’t understand! Not one player who’s played for this man has had anything bad to say about him as a man, his coaching nor schemes! HE JUST LEAD HIS DEFENSE TO THE SB!"

Tre Boston via X

Julius Peppers - who recently became a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer - took a swipe at Nick Bosa's comments regarding a level of unpreparedness for some of Kansas City's plays. It's almost as if offensive mastermind Andy Reid was saving some magic for the brightest lights. Fancy that?

"Blaming the coaches because you were unprepared is lame. Stop dry snitching and make a play. There’s no call on the play sheet that accounts for EVERYTHING the offense might run. The players make the diagrams come alive. Sometimes as a “supposedly” great player your antennas go up when you see something you haven’t seen in practice."

Julius Peppers via X

Perhaps Wilks wasn't a good fit. Perhaps his high demands and schematic concepts didn't suit some. There was a slight regression in performance overall from the unit. But looking at how DeMeco Ryans galvanized the Houston Texans during his first season as head coach, it was an incredibly high bar to reach.

Wilks was the scapegoat, let's just call things how they are. It happened during his time in the Arizona Cardinals' top job when he was given Josh Rosen and Mike Glennon as his quarterbacks. It happened in Carolina despite restoring the core ethos after Rhule was mercifully removed. It's happened again with the Niners to cover up the failings of others.

The worst part? They made Wilks surplus to requirements after all other defensive coordinator positions had been filled. Nasty work all around.