Steve Wilks had time for Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper after NFC triumph

Steve Wilks
Steve Wilks / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

Steve Wilks had time for a not-so-subtle dig at Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper after helping the San Francisco 49ers book their Super Bowl berth.

Steve Wilks is an old-school coach with proud values. It also seems as if he hasn't forgotten being harshly overlooked by the Carolina Panthers during last year's head coaching cycle.

Wilks took over from Matt Rhule after a 1-5 start to the 2022 season. He inherited a complete mess. A team devoid of inspiration or confidence, lacking genuine leadership as another campaign threatened to spiral out of control. It didn't take long for the interim to restore a sense of pride.

Steve Wilks thrived while the Carolina Panthers floundered

It was a bad hand, but Wilks made the best of it. He brought the Panthers back to the foundations that made them great during his first spell with the franchise. They got back to basics. They held each other accountable. It almost brought the unlikeliest of NFC South title victories before faltering at the final hurdle.

Many thought this was enough for Wilks to get the head coach job permanently. Players wanted him. Fans wanted him. But the only opinion that seemingly mattered opted to go with Frank Reich instead.

As with most moves during the David Tepper era, it was a catastrophe. The Panthers won two games. They are giving up the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The pressure for Dan Morgan and Dave Canales to get things right is astronomical.

As for Wilks? He thrived after becoming San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator.

It didn't start well during their NFC Championship game against the Detroit Lions. Dan Campbell's men had their way in the first half to secure a 24-7 lead at the interval. Thanks to some exceptional adjustments from Wilks, San Francisco emerged victorious to reach another Super Bowl.

How ironic…

Wilks reveled in the glory of a conference championship and a chance to showcase his play-calling abilities on the grandest stage of all. Amid the adulation and joy, there was reflection. This is something he portrayed with a social media post that centered on one door closing and another (better) one opening as part of God's plan.

This was an inspirational message to stay the course in the face of adversity. No matter what life throws at you, persevere. Hard work will always come good in the end.

It was also a not-too-subtle message to Tepper. You may not have believed enough in me, but San Francisco did. Now, they're in a Super Bowl while the Panthers are languishing as the league's laughingstock until further notice.

Tepper opted for a shiny old toy recently fired by the Indianapolis Colts. Reich jumped back into coaching too soon. He lacked the energy needed to manage an NFL franchise and call plays. While the need for an offensive mind tipped the scales, the incompetent billionaire completely ignored what was unfolding in front of him last season.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing to have. Tepper doesn't look like the sort of guy who holds himself accountable. But the hedge fund manager is probably casting envious glances at Wilks' success, wondering what could have been.

It's funny how life works out sometimes.

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