We’re witnessing the vindication of Steve Wilks

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Once was a coincidence — but, not really. Twice was proof of the pattern. Steve Wilks keeps getting the short end of the stick. And the owners that fire him always wind up paying for it.

Which under .500 team makes the NFL Playoffs?

With the news that Carolina Panthers owner Dave Tepper has relieved head coach Frank Reich — and other members of the coaching staff — of their duties, the franchise that has been a disaster ever since Tepper bought the team in 2018, is now on its third interim coach, and sixth coach overall, since the change in ownership.

The Panthers wouldn’t be here if Wilks was still around.

“He’s in a position to be in consideration for that position,” Tepper said about Wilks when he was named as the interim coach last season after Tepper fired Matt Rhule. “I had a talk with Steve, no promises were made, but if he does an incredible job, he has to be in consideration.”

Rhule was 11-27 in his tenure. And at the time he was fired, he was 1-4. The Panthers finished 7-10 that season thanks to Wilks going 6-6. But, that wasn’t good enough, despite how crazy that may seem.

“If you ask anybody in this locker room, we want Steve Wilks to be our next head coach,” defensive tackle Derrick Brown said about Wilks at the time.

“We ride behind Wilks,” Shaq Thompson added. “He came in here, he’s a true alpha, he’s a true leader, and guys follow behind him.

“He’s done amazing. Look what we’ve been going through.”

Tepper didn’t listen. He wanted Reich.

Reich was 1-10 during his tenure in Carolina. He won 10 fewer games than Rhule and five fewer than Wilks. It didn’t have to be this way, as Wilks is doing well as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. But, as wild as all this is, Wilks has been here before.

In 2018, Wilks was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. They finished 3-13, and if you ask some, it was a miracle that they got to three wins given what Wilks had to work with — Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, and Mike Glennon were some of the quarterbacks on that roster.

The Cardinals fired Wilks. What came after him was a shiny college coach with a high-powered offense, enter Kliff Kingsbury. It was similar to the shiny college coach with the high-powered offense that came before him in Carolina with Rhule.

The Panthers have won one game since Wilks wasn’t wanted in Carolina. The Cardinals were 28-37 with a playoff loss under Kingsbury. He got fired after going 4-13 in his final season, a similar record to what Wilks had in his only season in the desert.

If that ain’t vindication, I don’t know what is.

Last year, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joined Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit against the NFL for its alleged racist hiring practices when it comes to head coaches. This year, Antonio Pierce is the interim coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s gone 2-2 during his time in Vegas after Josh McDaniels was fired after starting the season with a 3-5 record. The Raiders haven’t taken the interim tag off Pierce yet. It all comes full circle. 

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