Steve Wilks ‘disappointed but not defeated’ after Panthers pick Frank Reich

Numerous players went to bat for interim head coach Steve Wilks to be named full-time coach of the Carolina Panthers. The job, however, went to Frank Reich.

One day after the Panthers announced Reich as their selection, Wilks said he was honored to be coach of the team. He went 6-6 after replacing fired coach Matt Rhule.

“The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God, so did I,” Wilks said in a statement Friday. “I’m disappointed but not defeated. 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.”

Wigdor Law LLP — a New York City-based law firm representing Wilks in his discrimination suit against the NFL — struck a different tone on Thursday.

“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 (owner) David Tepper,” the firm posted 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.”

Tepper called Wilks before the team made an official announcement regarding Reich on Thursday. Tepper said he was looking for an offensive-minded coach.

Rhule was fired Oct. 10 after a 1-4 start.

Carolina finished with a 7-10 mark and has missed the playoffs in each of the five seasons since Tepper bought the franchise in 2018 for a then-NFL-record $2.275 billion.

Reich is viewed as an offensive-minded coach, which is in stark contrast to the Panthers’ first four head coaches in franchise history. Wilks’ background also was on defense.

On April 7, 2022, Wilks joined fellow Black coach Brian Flores in his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL. Wilks claimed at the time he was a “bridge coach” when he was fired by the Arizona Cardinals after one season and a 3-13 record in 2018.

“This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront,” Wilks said in his statement at the time. “Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, remain employed, as white coaches and candidates. That is currently not the case.”