The name that likely stands front and center on the Carolina Panthers head coaching search is current interim coach Steve Wilks.
Wilks, 53, is a Panther through and through. He was born and raised in Charlotte and graduated from West Charlotte High School. This is his second stint with the Panthers. In his first, he worked his way from defensive backs coach to assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
His success as a defensive coordinator got him the job as Arizona Cardinals head coach in 2018. He was only given one year before being fired so wunderkind Kliff Kingsbury coud be brought in. In that year, he had the dynamic duo of Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen in the quarterback room. That pairing headed the league’s worst offense to a 3-13 record before the front office cleaned house.
Wilks spent a year with the Cleveland Browns as defensive coordinator but was not retained when that front office cleaned house to bring in Kevin Stefanski. He made his way back to Carolina after one year as defensive coordinator at Missouri.
Wilks inherited a Matt Rhule team that was in complete disarray. He righted the ship and the led the Panthers to a 6-6 record down the stretch. While it’s underwhelming at the surface, it’s a significant turnaround for a team that was 1-4 to start the season and 11-27 under Rhule in total.
He’s not a fashionable choice for a head coach. He’s a defensive guy much like the Panthers coaches before Matt Rhule. His version of the Panthers was an old school, run heavy, grind it out team that leaned on its run game and defense for wins down the stretch. Interviews need to determine if that was more out of necessity given the quarterback situation or if that’s the style Wilks would prefer to lean on in the best of circumstances.
However, he’s an obvious culture fit, and the players seem to like playing for him. He made a strong case to be the next full time coach of the Panthers.
So how would we feel if the Panthers removed the interim tag from Steve Wilks’ title?