“The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God, so did I. 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.”
Back in April of 2022, Wilks joined a class-action suit headed by fellow Black coach Brian Flores claiming racial discrimination in the hiring process of coaches and front office personnel around the NFL. He was fired following just one season as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach after posting a 3-13 record in 2018.
Tepper is pointing to Panthers chief administrative officer Kristi Coleman, chief administrative officer Kisha Smith and general council Tanya Taylor. He is right in this regard. But we’re talking about those in key personnel and chief decision-making roles. The fact that he felt it was necessary to name drop is rather interesting.
Tepper didn’t stop there. He brought up a term that’s become synonymous with the NFL’s hiring standards despite the fact that he himself might have played into that.
“How do you break that old boys’ network? How do you break that process? You break the process by trying to get the best people possible in every role you can do. Whether it’s the new [general counsel] we hired, who happens to be an African American woman. Whether it happens to be Frank Reich, who is a Caucasian male.”
David Tepper on Frank Reich hiring
The “old boys’ network” refers to a network of mostly white owners who have a history of failing to put minority candidates in a position of power. Sound familiar?
As for the hiring of Reich, this isn’t to say he’s not qualified. We’re talking about someone who spent 14 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback. He posted a respectable 40-33-1 record in five seasons as the Colts’ head coach. Rather, the fact that Tepper decided to reference the “old boys network” after making this hire is interesting.
While Wilks was pretty diplomatic after being passed up for the Panthers’ head coach job, his attorneys were not so kind.
“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.”
With Reich now aboard as the Panthers’ head coach, there’s only three Black head coaches in the NFL today. That includes Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and DeMeco Ryans, who was just hired by the Houston Texanson Tuesday . Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel also identifies at bi-racial.
As for Wilks, he might not be out of a job for long. Ryans’ former San Francisco 49ers team put in a request to interview him for their defensive coordinator vacancy on Tuesday.
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