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Will Steve Wilks be an NFL head coach in 2023?

We discuss whether an NFL team will hire Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks and which opening fits him best.

Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks has achieved success this season in spite of his temporary role, which has garnered some positive buzz as the offseason draws near. With a limited sample size of head coaching experience, he is bound to get consideration for a second head coaching opportunity elsewhere.

Who is Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks?

Wilks is a former player and experienced football coach, with his first coaching stint starting back in 1995 as a defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith. Since then, he’s worked as a defensive coach during stints at Savannah State, Appalachian State, Notre Dame, and Washington, to name a few programs from 1997 to 2005.

Wilks got his first NFL coaching job in 2006 as the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears, where he remained through 2008. Since then, he’s held the same role for the then-San Diego Chargers, and Carolina Panthers. Wilks was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator for the Panthers in 2017, before getting his first NFL head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. After a lone 3-13 record, Wilks was fired following the 2018-2019 season.

He has since bounced back and forth between college and the NFL, working as a defensive coordinator for both the Cleveland Browns and Missouri Tigers from 2019 to 2021. After re-joining the Panthers in 2022 as the team’s defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach, Wilks was named interim head coach following Matt Rhule’s firing earlier this season.

Why would he make a good head coach?

Wilks’ resume is full of experience, which gives him a potential advantage over other candidates in this offseason’s coaching carousel. His lone 3-13 head coaching record with the Cardinals back in 2018 feels like an anomaly, to some, given that it was just a one-year sample size. Since then, he’s continued to accumulate experience at both the college and professional levels, with his recent success likely garnering some positive momentum for his case.

In the aftermath of Rhule’s firing, the Panthers have gone 5-6 while staying in contention for the NFC South title. Much of their success has come from an efficient run game and playing sound defense, but most importantly, the team has bought into Wilk’s blueprint. He will need to put together a strong staff on offense to compete in a league that has evolved toward that side of the ball, but his defensive prowess should be welcomed by teams with a vacant head coaching position.

Which teams are interviewing him?

Carolina Panthers

Wilks will interview with the Panthers for a shot at getting he interim tag taken off. He already has the backing of several current Carolina players and that was evident with how hard the team play for him sown the stretch. The two main questions for him is who he would bring on staff and how he will address the starting quarterback position.