For the first time since the Panthers announced the hiring of Frank Reich as the franchise’s new head coach on Thursday, 2022 interim coach Steve Wilks released a statement on the decision.
Though he expressed his disappointment in not landing the full-time job, Wilks admitted that he will always remain a fan of the team.
“The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I. I’m disappointed by not defeated,” Wilks wrote in a note posted to Twitter. “Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through.
“It was an honor for me to coach those men in the Carolina Panthers locker room as the interim head coach. Players, coaches and staff, thank you for your hard work and dedication. I took pride in representing Charlotte, a great city that I love so much. Thank you to my family, friends and the community for your overwhelming support.
“I do wish Frank Reich all the best. I will always be a fan of the Carolina Panthers Football Team.”
Though Wilks expressed his support of the Panthers moving forward, Douglas Wigdor–his attorney in the Brian Flores-led racial discrimination case against the NFL–issued a more scathing statement about the franchise’s hiring of Reich.
“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into Playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the Head Coach position by David Tepper,” Wigdor wrote on Twitter.
“There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”
Wilks, who took over the Panthers gig after Matt Rhule was fired following a 1–4 start, performed admirably in the interim role. Carolina went 6–6 down the stretch and nearly won the NFC South before a late-season loss to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers.
The Panthers stint marked the second time that Wilks, 53, had served as the head coach of a franchise after spending the 2018 season with the Cardinals. Most of his time in the NFL and at the college level has been as a defensive assistant, which has includes jobs with the Browns, Chargers and Bears as well as Missouri, Washington and Notre Dame.
Reich, 61, will return to the NFL’s coaching ranks after last serving at the Colts head coach from 2018 to ’22. He was fired nine games into the regular season this year after a 3-5-1 start and replaced by interim coach Jeff Saturday.