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Carolina Panthers could retain Steve Wilks under one condition

Steve Wilks

No matter what happens in the Carolina Panthers’ regular season finale in Week 18, they’ve already secured their best record since 2018. It’s not because of Matt Rhule, who was hired to a seven-year, $62 million contract in 2020. Instead, Steve Wilks has helped lead the charge with a 5-6 record since taking over in Week 7.

This late-season surge has happened in spite of the Panthers trading their best offensive player, sending Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. But team owner David Tepper has taken notice of his franchise’s recent success ahead of the team’s coaching search set to begin once the regular season concludes after Sunday’s action.

While Wilks is operating under the interim tag for now, there’s building momentum for the 53-year-old defensive specialist to retain the job heading into next season as well.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, the Panthers are keeping a close eye on the progress Wilks has made with the current group of players, and he could be hired for the full-time gig. But Wilks will have some specific questions to answer in the year-end interview for him to land the position.

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David Tepper wants Steve Wilks to have better plan for offense

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest issue plaguing the Panthers during the entire Rhule tenure centered around not having an established starting quarterback or an offense capable of scoring 30 or more points — a feat they accomplished three times in his first season and just once in his second. Wilks’ team scored 30 or more three times in just 11 games.

But Tepper wants to see more consistency in the scoring column for a team that currently ranks 18th in scoring, which has steadily improved under Wilks’ guidance. While the Tepper is set to continue paying close attention to how his locker room responds to Wilks, there is one crucial area that the coach needs to solve for heading into 2023.

Specifically, Tepper wants to hear what Wilks’ plans are for continuing to improve an offense that’s found an identity as of late, thanks to an improving rushing attack. There’s a strong sense that Wilks putting forth another strong effort on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints could make or break his ability to secure the full-time coaching position in Charlotte.

No matter what, win or lose, the Panthers are expected to conduct a full coaching search later this offseason. But Wilks could make a strong case with a dominant effort to close out the year.

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