Monday morning optimist: Steve Wilks deserves his shot


The Carolina Panthers entered this week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers having already been ruled dead. No one trusted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo or preseason fourth-string quarterback PJ Walker. The defense was healthier than last week, but just that way. Steve Wilks is a local hero looking to make the most of his time as Panthers head coach, but no one expected any real wins from him.

Many fans, in fact, have embraced the idea of ​​tanking and actively don’t want to win from this iteration of the Panthers. Those fans can talk somewhere else today, because today we’re going to celebrate how great it is to see the Panthers be the best team on a professional football field. We’re going to celebrate the fact that the Panthers don’t have a franchise face right now, they don’t have an offensive identity, and yet they still have the same heart and soul that held this team together. together through the highs and lows of their last successful years: 2013-2015.

That’s amazing coming from a team that gave the distinct impression yesterday that they wouldn’t be competing for anything until at least 2024.

Wilks is a rare leader in the history of this franchise

There are leaders in this team. Leaders like Brian Burns who is apparently worth more to the Panthers than two first-round picks. Leaders like Wilks who grew up in Charlotte, who’s been with the Panthers forever and knows who this team is for the Carolinas, win or lose. Yesterday is what happens when you let leadership drive talent. It’s closer to the ever-elusive concept of a winning culture than any Panther’s Path memo I’ve ever seen.

Look at the love in this locker room for their head coach. The Panthers are often considered to be nothing but a quarterback and offensive coordinator. This means that the leadership of this team, as it is built today, should be an important factor in the future search for head coaches.

I don’t care if the Panthers win or lose from here. If Wilks can keep the locker room at this level of love, if he can continue to pull yesterday’s level of effort from these men? Then I want his name at the top of the list of candidates for permanent employment.

That’s a big if, but we’re talking about a big hire. One must beget the other.

I owe McAdoo an apology

I won’t go so far as to call yesterday’s game plan creative. A double backhand and a general willingness to explore the forward pass is the bare minimum. But this bare minimum did the job. It was a level that I did not expect from this offense. Kudos to McAdoo for finding a way to remove this level.

Well, I’m sorry I wanted Wilks to kick your contract out.

You’ve gained some leeway to show off what else you’ve got. Maybe they got lucky and caught Tampa sleeping. Maybe the Panthers needed more than a week on the road to Los Angeles to make their post-Rhule changes and we’ll see more games like yesterday. Maybe there’s been some good training around Walker and he’s ready to turn a corner.

Either way, McAdoo won the right to keep his job, and Walker won the right to continue leading this team on the field. In between, there could be hope for DJ Moore’s remaining season. There might even be hope to see what Terrace Marshall, Jr actually brings to the table.

And after? Hilarity and history

The Carolina Panthers have a dominating hold on third place in the NFC South so far and are just one game behind the division-leading Atlanta Falcons. Go ahead and clean up the water or coffee you just choke on your phone laughing after reading this sentence. Yes, the NFL is weird this year. The Panthers have a chance, pending what the Bucs do this week, to play Atlanta for the division lead this week. I don’t know if much will come out of this chance, but it’s mathematically there.

Personally, I find this hilarious and can’t wait to see what additional chaos this team invites by finally playing to the level of their own talent.

Oh, and that’s just the best thing to come out this week. The second best thing is that the Panthers must be a small part of recent history. Feel free to point fingers and laugh if you enjoy seeing Tom Brady’s career suffer as much as I do.