Steve Wilks ‘disappointed’ after Panthers signed Frank Reich

CHARLOTTE, NC – Steve Wilks said Friday he was “disappointed but not defeated” after being passed over for the Carolina Panthers head coaching job, which went to former Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich.

There was no mention of a potential discrimination lawsuit like the one Wilks filed against the NFL after being fired by the Arizona Cardinals after one season (2018), though the law firm representing Wilks responded Thursday to Reich’s hiring by saying that “there is a legitimate racial problem in the NFL” and that he would have “more to say in the coming days.”

Wilks, who is black, also did not mention Panthers owner David Tepper by name in his message posted on Twitter in which he thanked the players, coaches and staff members for their support as interim manager. It was Tepper who gave Wilks the chance to lead his hometown team after firing Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start.

Wilks went 6-6 as interim coach and was a near-unanimous pick by the players to get the full-time job. He was kind in congratulating him to Reich.

“The sun was up this morning and by the grace of God so was I,” Wilks wrote. “I’m disappointed, but not defeated. A lot of people aren’t cut out for this, but I know what it means to persevere and get through it.”

“It was an honor for me to coach those men in the locker room of the Carolina Panthers as the interim head coach. Players, coaches and staff, thank you for your hard work and dedication. I was proud to represent Charlotte, a great city that I love so much.” Thank you to my family, friends and the community for your great support.

“I wish Frank Reich all the best. I will always be a fan of the Carolina Panthers football team.”

Wilks ended his message with the team’s mantra: “#KEEP POUNDING.”

The first Carolina player to respond to Wilks’ message on Friday was the kicker. Johnny Hecker. The players had been silent on Twitter after Reich’s signing on Thursday.

“Nothing but absolute love for this man!” Hekker posted on Twitter. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”

That “absolute love” summed up what most players said when defending the Wilks signing.

“To be a head coach in the National Football League, you have to be a leader, you have to know how to control a room,” the guard austin corbet he told ESPN during the final week of the regular season. “He has done a fantastic job, and we have to build on this momentum that we have.”

Statistically, the Panthers improved a lot after the Rhule-to-Wilks trade, particularly on offense. They went from 24th in scoring (18.6 ppg) to 15th (22.1), last in yards per game (271.4) to 17th (331.5), and 27th in rushing (89.8 yards per game) to sixth (144.6).

But ultimately, the Panthers went with Reich, the first offensive-minded coach in team history.

The fact that seven of the nine candidates for the job were offensive-minded indicated early in the process where the search committee was headed.

Wilks, a defense specialist, joined Reich and Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore in getting a second interview for the job.

The Panthers were the first of five NFL teams with a head coaching vacancy to make a hire. Wilks has yet to be interviewed by any of the other four.

Wigdor LLP, the New York City-based law firm representing Wilks in his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, was “disturbed” by the Panthers’ hiring process.

“We are shocked and upset that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as interim coach, which included bringing the team back into playoff contention and gaining the support of players and fans, David Tepper passed him by for the head coaching job, the firm said in a statement.

The firm said Friday it would have no further response at this time.

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