UPDATE: With the Panthers officially hiring Frank Reich as their next head coach, it has been reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that Steve Wilks “intends to coach elsewhere” in 2023. Wilks is now officially available to interview and hire.
With Frank Reich hired as head coach in Carolina, Steve Wilks intends to coach elsewhere in 2023. He impressed many around the league in his interim stint, rallying the #Panthers to a 6-6 finish, and should have options.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 26, 2023
Steve Wilks was one of the better stories in the NFL this past season. After having just one season as head coach in 2018 with the Cardinals before he was unceremoniously fired—hardly a fair shake with a shaky roster—Wilks wrung quality play out of a Panthers squad with big question marks at quarterback in 2022. It was an impressive coaching job for a team that had fallen apart under the previous head coach, and he ultimately went .500 over the final 12 games of the season. The quality of that work, which the Falcons saw twice from the other sideline, has apparently piqued Atlanta’s interest.
Wilks has a long history as a defensive coach in the NFL, one that goes back to coaching defensive backs with the Chargers in 2006. As you’d guess from the first paragraph, he has also been a head coach twice, once in that ill-fated stint with the Cardinals in 2018 and then again through most of the 2022 season, where he took over for a fired Matt Rhule and piloted the Carolina Panthers to better outcomes. If he doesn’t land the permanent gig in Carolina, it appears he might be considered for a different job that fits with his background: Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator.
That news comes to us from Panthers inside Sheena Quick.
Source tells me that the Falcons are closely monitoring the Steve Wilks situation.— Sheena Quick (@Sheena_Marie3) January 25, 2023
The Falcons have a long list of candidates they’ve interviewed and considered for their defensive coordinator opening, and it’s not surprising that they’re not necessarily done adding to it. Atlanta saw Wilks and his Panthers trade blows with them in one of the weirdest games of the year and then more or less dominate them a short time later on Thursday Night Football, and they’re undoubtedly familiar with his fine work as a defensive coach at other stops. Wilks’ experience, reputation, and the resilience of the team he coached this past year all have to make him appealing for Atlanta, and if he loses the job in Carolina to Frank Reich, they’ll want to interview him.
Would Wilks be interested? That’s very much an open question, so for the moment this is just an interesting note to file away. The Falcons have yet to make a hire with most of their candidates also interviewing for other defensive coordinator and even head coaching gigs, but they may still wind up hiring one before Wilks even becomes available. If he does and he’s willing to consider Atlanta, the Falcons will likely leap at the opportunity to interview him, so we’ll see how this plays out.