What’s next for Steve Wilks? Here are some potential landing spots for the former Panthers interim head coach.

He carolina panthers Thursday former named Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich as their new head coach. Reich getting the job necessarily meant that interim head coach Steve Wilks, who had been the team’s defensive coordinator before being promoted to the top job after Matt Rhule was fired earlier this season, didn’t.

Wilks was one of two finalists for the job, according to CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones, after leading the Panthers to a 6-6 record following their 1-4 start. Carolina was not eliminated from playoff contention until the penultimate week of the season, and showed vast improvement during Wilks’ tenure despite the team trading Christian McCaffrey for just one game in said tenure.

Multiple players vouched for Wilks when deciding who would get the permanent coaching job. “We ride behind Wilks,” linebacker Shaq Thompson said late in the season. “He got here, he’s a true alpha, he’s a true leader and the guys follow him. He’s done amazing. Look what we’ve been going through.”

Unfortunately, Wilks didn’t get the job and it looks like he’s leaving Carolina. That reality raises the question of where Wilks will land next, and in what role.

At the moment, four coaching positions remain open: those of arizona cardinals, Denver Broncos, houston texans and the Indianapolis Colts. Wilks has not been interviewed or requested to interview for any of those openings, because as of Thursday he was still the interim head coach of the Panthers. It’s possible he could emerge as a candidate for one of those openings now that it’s available.

If Wilks isn’t a candidate or doesn’t get any of those head coaching jobs, he could also land in one of those spots as defensive coordinator, especially if the team hires a young offensive coach looking for a more experienced hand. to get the team to the other side of the ball. There are also numerous defensive coordinators who have interviewed and/or remain in the mix for those jobs (san francisco 49ers meco ryans DC, New York Giants DC Wink Martindale, and philadelphia eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, chief among them), and if one of them gets a chance, Wilks could be among the candidates to replace them in their roles. It’s also possible Wilks could be a candidate for one of the remaining defensive coordinator openings for the three teams that have their head coach but are looking for a new CD: the atlanta falcons, miami dolphins Y minnesota vikings.

When a coach is looking for a new job, it’s always wise to seek out coaches they’ve worked for in the past, but right now, Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera is the only head coach with whom Wilks has a prior connection. Wilks worked with Rivera in both Chicago and San Diego, later serving as his defensive backs coach and then assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Carolina. Washington has its DC in Jack Del Rio, but Wilks gets a job similar to what Brian Flores got with the pittsburgh steelers in 2022 (assistant head coach and position coach) is a feasible option if he doesn’t land a head coaching or defensive coordinator job.

In other words, Wilks should he has a plethora of options available to him this offseason. But as we’ve seen in the past (even with Flores last offseason), a plethora of options doesn’t always guarantee a coach an opportunity. And coaches who look like Flores and Wilks have historically tended to get fewer of those opportunities than others, which is the basis of their racial discrimination suit against the NFL. If Wilks, like Flores last year, doesn’t get even a defensive coordinator job this offseason, that could play into the case at some point in the future.

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