The NFL has revealed how the league feels about Black head coaching candidates once again. Earlier this week, Steve Wilks was passed over for the head coaching job in Carolina for Frank Reich, and Wilks’ lawyer was not happy about it.
Wilks got no love after navigating a team that was lost under previous head coach Matt Rhule to a 6-6 record during his stint at the top man.
Steve ‘ Lawyer Not Happy He Was Fired
Douglas Wigdor, the attorney representing Wilks in Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, spoke loud and clear about the process that took place in Carolina for the head coaching vacancy.
“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,” said Wigdor in a statement to the press via email. “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.”
Reactions to Reich’s Hiring
It’s extremely ironic that in the same week that a white head coach (Nathaniel Hackett) gets hired to be the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets after failing miserably in Denver with future Hall of Famer Russell Wilson, Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who has had Tamp Bay’s offense at the top of the NFL for years, loses his job and is still searching for a check. In this case, Wilks worked wonders with a downtrodden Panthers team and was fired for Reich who was just fired because he couldn’t win big in Indianapolis.
"Nathaniel Hackett is the Hunter Biden of the NFL. He keeps getting high-paying jobs because of his connections…I hope Aaron Rodgers says, 'screw you' and goes to some other team just to screw over the Jets and teach these teams a lesson."
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) January 27, 2023
Make it make sense.
Marcus Spears, Ryan Clarke, and Stephen A. Smith all voiced their frustrations on ESPN’s “First Take” about the issue as well.
Spears delivered the first blow when he stated how this wasn’t a personal shot at Reich but one at the NFL and its owners.
“Frank Reich got fired because his football team was bad. Steve Wilks led a team to a 6-6 record and on the verge of making the playoffs. I am just making a point; you do whatever you want with it,” said Spears on “First Take.” “He went 6-6 with the Panthers after they had to fire Matt Rhule. They just hired a coach that got fired over a coach that almost resurrected their season.”
Spears along with Clark stated that the owners will continue to hire white coaches because they relate to them and are familiar with them.
Skip Bayless spoke on his show “Undisputed” Friday and went to far as to say the Panthers players should protest because Wilks wasn’t hired.
Skip Bayless called for the Carolina #Panthers players to boycott playing because Steve Wilks wasn’t hired to be their HC.
“Wouldn’t you like to see some sort of protest here, where you stand up as a football team [and say we aren’t going to play]”😱😱
— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) January 27, 2023
Who Is Steve Wilks?
Wilks’ coaching career started in 2006 when he was the defensive backs coach for the Bears for three seasons. He spent 12 seasons at various stops before finally getting his chance to become a head coach with the Cardinals in 2018. His head coaching life was short lived after a 3-13 season with former 10th pick overall Josh Rosen as his starting quarterback.
After the 2018 season, both Rosen and Wilks found themselves in new places. Rosen was traded to the Dolphins and is currently looking for work with his eighth NFL team. Wilks went on to be defensive coordinator with the Browns before finding his way to the Panthers.
Matt Rhule was fired two and half years into his eight-year contract he signed with the Panthers for $74 million back in 2020. Wilks took over and led the team to a 6-6 record after an abysmal 1-4 start under Rhule.
Wilks earned the respect of the locker room, got the Panthers back into playoff contention, and finished second in the NFC South with 7-10 record. One would think that would be enough to remove the interim title and become the permanent head coach, but it wasn’t.
Who Did The Panthers Hire?
The Panthers hired former Colts head coach Frank Reich, who was fired on Nov. 7 after starting the season 3-5-1. Reich did lead the Colts to the playoffs twice in his five-year tenure with the team but was anchored down by instability at the quarterback position.
Wilks had a quarterback carousel to deal with the Panthers and with the Cardinals. Rosen, the 10th overall pick from the 2018 draft, has one foot out the league, and Wilks dealt with another bust from that same draft, Baker Mayfield, who was the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns. He also had to deal with one of the team’s best players, Christian McCaffrey, being traded to the 49ers.
Just Two Black Head Coaches In 32-Team NFL
There are now only two black head coaches in the NFL and four coordinators left in the NFL after Byron Leftwich was fired by the Buccaneers. Mike Tomlin has been holding it down for 15 years and Todd Bowles’ job is safe for now.
Demeco Ryans, 49ers defensive coordinator, is rumored to be among the top candidates for the Texans job.
But again, when Black coaches do get the opportunity they often inherit a terrible team, or a team on the decline, usually void of a franchise QB. For instance, Matt Lafleur’s first head coaching opportunity came with Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and a talented defense.
If Ryans gets the Texans job, he will inherit the same thing Lovie Smith got this season, which isn’t much, and a top-five draft pick.
Is Rooney Rule Helping?
The Rooney Rule hasn’t helped at all because it just states that Black candidates must be interviewed and provides draft incentive if they are hired. Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator, has been interviewed 15 times through four hiring cycles but has never been hired.
What Is The Shadow League Rooney Rule Modification? | Only NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Can Truly Guarantee Compliance
Until NFL owners see Black candidates as equals to white candidates, this problem will continue. Wilks hasn’t let this discourage him and even shared a positive message on social media.
— Steve Wilks (@ScoreonD) January 27, 2023