Carolina broke the seal on head coaching hires this offseason when it announced the decision to hire former Colts head coach Frank Reich today to officially replace Matt Rhule, spurning interim head coach Steve Wilks in the process. A closer look at the Panthers’ recent hires, though, may bring us back to an issue the NFL has been struggling to fight in recent years, and may lead Carolina into pending litigation against the NFL and multiple other teams, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports.
On January 8, nearly three weeks ago and a mere two hours after the Panthers’ regular season had come to a close, Reich’s daughter, Hannah Reich Fairman, announced that she had officially accepted a job with Carolina on Twitter. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with Fairman’s hiring. Even in a league rife with nepotism, the personnel addition couldn’t even be considered as such as Reich didn’t yet work for the Panthers.
Wilks already has a storied role in the league’s history of racial discrimination. Wilks is involved in the pending Brian Flores racial discrimination case against the league and several teams, having sued the Cardinals. After the announcement that Wilks was being passed over for Reich, Wilks’ lawyer in the suit, Doug Wigdor, implied that Carolina would soon find itself added to the lawsuit as a defendant, as reported by Florio. The argument on Wilks’ behalf is that racial bias affected his chances to remain the head coach in Carolina on an official basis and that his existing involvement in the pending lawsuit against the NFL led the Panthers to consider him in a lesser capacity.
“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 (Panthers owner) David Tepper,” Wigdor averred in his statement. “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”
Whether or not Fairman’s hiring holds any wrongdoing, it immediately becomes a point of interest in the eventual litigation. The theory would be that the Panthers knew that Reich would eventually become their head coach when they hired Fairman and strung any other candidates along for a sham coaching search that made a mockery of the NFL’s diversity hiring rules and efforts. Efforts like the Rooney Rule have been minimized into red tape that has NFL franchises perfunctorily going through mandatory motions with zero intention.
If Reich’s appointment was a done deal at the time of Fairman’s hiring, it becomes a key example of the league’s issues with racial discrimination, and Wilks case gains much more evidential validity. In order to prove that theory, an investigation will have to be undertaken to review all communications and question those involved in the hiring process.
57 comments on “Panthers’ HC Hire Comes With Some Potential Controversy”
I can’t really attest to just how good Wilks is as a HC or if others are better, but it felt to me like giving him another year would gave been a reasonable solution for both sides.
As good as Wilks did with that skeleton of a roster he deserves another shot with a team that believes in him
He deserves consider for sure. Maybe he interviewed poorly. Maybe he had a poor plan for the offensive side of the ball. We will never know. Is what it is now
What does “deserving” have to do with winning? Carolina needs an offensive infusion.
I’m sure applying common sense to this discussion makes me a racist as well, somehow…
But guess who is probably now going to find HC interviews really hard to come by in the future… Rooney rule or not?
Probably the guy suing teams that interview, but don’t hire him.
The only interesting point in this hire is why Reich would choose to go from one meddling owner to the other.
While Wilks managed a .500 record with Carolina, he was never more than a place holder.
I think Frank reich is a better coach than wilks but I think both Arizona and Carolina did him dirty ( although that Arizona stint showed he needed more time as coordinator). On that last point I don’t think the hiring process of NFL coaches involves race ( Brian Flores was fired because Stephen ross wanted him to tank for top picks and David culley was a scapegoat for Houston l)
Culley was a bad coach. Great guy, but not a good head coach.
Culley has been awful everywhere
“although that Arizona stint showed he needed more time as coordinator”
Eh. I don’t know how much you can infer about his coaching abilities from his one year in AZ. It’s extremely difficult to take over any bad team and turn them around in just one season, especially when your starting QB is a horrible rookie like Josh Rosen.
Race definitely plays a role it’s not even debatable at this point.
How does the last paragraph equate to racial discrimination? Do you know they are hiring/not hiring because of race? That’s the issue I have with this stuff, is the baseless idea that racial inequity is racial discrimination. Does it not follow the Rooney rule of that was the case? Yes, but does that mean the underlying reason was race? Obsolutly not. Do people think they are actually not hiring the best candidate, regardless of race?
The implication from the last paragraph is that if they already knew they were going to hire Reich, that all the stuff after was a dog and pony show to give the appearance that they were appeasing the Rooney rule
But you don’t know that, is my point. There is no proof of that. It’s all speculation. Most of the time you’re getting an in house option, so why wouldn’t Wilks be a reasonable hire for an interim hc? And then go out and get Reich who has hc experience and has a sb ring as an OC? Doesn’t that make more sense than the racism idea?
I think the big problem is the optics of it. If you wanna go through the hiring process and select Reich over the other candidates then ok, but the hiring of the daughter of your eventual head coach an hour after the regular season ends looks pretty bad if you’re trying to say the interview process was a true open door. The last thing the league wants is a blatant dog and pony of the Rooney Rule.
the whole thing is speculation. just like the lawyer implying racial bias is why he wasn’t hired. he jumped to that within hours of Reich’s hiring. That’s a big accusation and I highly doubt they had sufficient proof that quickly.
It’s a complicated issue. I think there’s a lot of history in this country of the best candidate not getting the job because of race. Racism was a thing, and still is. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always a thing, of course. But if your threshold is simply to say “it’s not logical”, then you’re going to let a lot of discrimination fall through the cracks. I don’t believe that many people will come out and say “I hired x over y because X is white snd Y is black. That’s simply never going to happen. So, sometimes you can’t “prove” it except to looks for patterns and statistics that point to systemic inequalities. There’s a lot of grey area for sure though, and I don’t know that there’s any perfect answers. I certainly don’t have one.
I see where you’re coming from. I don’t necessarily agree. But I appreciate the respectful replies.
Yeah I assume that we’re all open hearted people for the most part who just want to see the right thing happen. It’s ok we don’t have the exact same opinion, like I said, it’s a complicated issue, I would assume there are many valid points of view here. Os fans are the best though
Let’s go Os! Shohei 2024!
That would be awesome. Excited about our future for sure!
The day that O’s owner gets off his wallet to actually pay what Shohei’s market will command, we’ll find out the earth really is flat and pigs do fly.
Since the 70’s in almost every non-sports profession, there is indeed a history of race playing a part in the hiring process, except it was due to affirmative action. While that probably was needed, professions like firefighter where my brother had the highest scores in our capital city on all exams and physical tests for three straight years yet was passed over for others because of race, leads to nothing but underperformance. I believe we may be seeing the long-term effects in jobs such as firefighting and law enforcement currently, especially with what just went down in Memphis.
This was a bunch of nothing
The only thing we KNOW is that there are currently two Black head coaches in the NFL.
It’s easy to rationalize any single hire, with the same old: “We don’t know… bad interviews… they just preferred _____ …” or whatever. The bottom line is that the Rooney Rule is in place to force owners to at least halfway consider one Black candidate.
The reality is that most of the teams are owned by old White guys, many of whom – like it or not – are hesitant to hire a Black head coach. If you don’t believe that, how do you explain those owners’ resistance to even PRETENDING to comply with the Rooney Rule?
That’s what the Rooney rule is, a dog and pony show. Now everytime a minority candidate doesn’t get hired that’s what gets claimed which is the flaw in forcing teams to do something.
The Rooney rule itself prompts racial inequality. To be forced to interview any one only because they’re back, brown, white…. Screams inequality. Or the perception of. Wrong and stupid. He who deserves the job, interviews well, that’s who gets a job. Any business is run that way to maximize profits. Skin color has nothing to do with it.
Skin color has everything to do with it. And the Rooney Rule doesn’t prompt racial inequality. That statement makes zero sense.
Bull. Sick of this crap. They hired who they wanted. And all employers have that right. To hire whom they think is best for the job. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it don’t. But it rarely has to do with skin color. I very much doubt it has to do with race. If I’m white and a black person got the job I interviewed for, I should just sue over racial discrimination? If I’m black and a white person got the same job I interviewed for, I should sue over discrimination?
Seems wrong. A can’t win situation for the teams. Or any other employer.
Let’s stop using race as an excuse and just just hire the best qualified person. Skin color has no place in any job hire. Best person for the job. And if you don’t get that job, stop blaming your skin color.
It’s a lot more nuanced than this. Yeah, employers should hire the best person for the job. Often though, if two candidates are equally qualified but one is black and the other is white, the white candidate is hired due to unconscious (and sometimes conscious) bias. Further, white people are often more “qualified” for the reason I just described – the black candidate likely hasn’t had the same opportunities / experience as the white candidate due to bias.
Not saying that this is what is happening in this situation as there’s no way to prove that, but it’s definitely problematic to suggest that skin colour doesn’t influence job hires.
@c-daddy: very well put!
Literally No one cares about the color of one skin. The nfl becomes more laughable every day.
I mean would wilks even of been coaching Carolina if he wasn’t on the coaching staff ? And if wilks didn’t do the interim coaching would he even be in consideration for any head coaching gigs
So anytime a black candidate gets passed over its a race problem?
That what Colin Kapernick says
I believe that employers have the right to hire who they want to.
It doesn’t trouble me if the Panthers hired the daughter of a guy that they intended to hire as head coach. If they had their eyes on the guy as a HC there’s nothing wrong with that. However, one would think they would have held off for a few months on her hiring, but people associated with football have seldom been anywhere near the head of the class.
I do think any team would have loved to have had a Tony Dungy as their head coach – even an owner that is truly racist. But the owners and FO’s have to go with people they think can do the best for therm.
Nevertheless, the fact that there are so few minority head coaches in the NFL is a real issue, and nothing seems to change that.
Well come up with your list of White coaches in the league rn who suck.
At least half of them.
And if they’re replaced by minorities at least half of them will be as well.
Fact is that both the NBA and NFL play games that depend on timing between big people in small areas of play (in the NFL around the line of scrimmage). With free agency the players move around so often that they don’t have time to learn what one another around them will do in split-second situations. Add in that even if a HC is successful his assistant coaches are poached. Consequently Head Coaches often move around a lot.
Almost all teams in the NFL and NBA play sloppy ball. The loud me-first players that are good get catered to. Add in that it seems every down that 2-5 players on each team are running on and off the field. It’s hard to follow a team sport when one doesn’t know for sure who’s playing.
I don’t watch much of those leagues anymore. I think both leagues are a joke…..and that starts with most of the franchise owners.
I agree with you there. I did forget about Dennis Allen but then I remembered Bowles had a job
Obviously Frank Reich brings more to the table than Steve Wilks………
Can the Raiders intern HC from last year sue for discrimination? He took a mess of a team to the playoffs and was still dumped by LV.
So the author explains the why this may be an issue of race and gives proof yet people still come here and just complain about racism. Racism has been in the nation since the start but let’s act like it’s not an issue right? Either way good luck to Reich. If panthers knew that was their man should’ve let wilks move on with his life sooner. Maybe try for another coaching gig somewhere else.
Stop being a bum
You have a guy here who is suing the league. If you hire this guy to be the coach, one day you’re gonna have to fire him from being the coach. How is that gonna go? Who wants that? If you make yourself into a litigious person you are going to make yourself radioactive.
POC coaches are gonna start suing every time they don’t get a job now. Because their skin color is the only reason they could ever be passed over a job!
Not the fact that he has a losing record as a HC in both college and NFL. Not the fact that the coach hired has won a Super Bowl recently.and has a.winning record! It’s his skin color!
wilks is a loser let’s be real
I was wondering if the Patriots were also guilty of side stepping the protocol that extends to OC’s and DC’s as well? Bill O’Brien had been connected to the Pats as possible new OC for next year since November. The Pats interviewed him along with Adrien Klemm, Keenan McCardell and Shawn Jefferson. O’Brien was the only one with any OC experience and it never seemed as though any of the other 3 ever had a chance. Curious as well is that none of the three got interviews anywhere else for OC positions either.
My bad. McCardell got an OC interview from the Bucs.
Are we going to hear this every year now? Everything is a racism now.
Black Americans make up 12-13% of the population in the US. At equal representation that equated to 3-4 head coaches in football.
People then argue the league is mostly made up of Black Americans. But then I ask why does that matter? Are we saying that Black Americans are more equipped to coach other people of the same race because of their skin tone? No because that just sounds silly, right? That would be like saying we need more white folks to coach hockey because it’s a primarily white league.
To people who say there are not enough Black American coaches in the NFL I ask what is the exact number you’d be happy with? Because without a specific goal you’re just whining about a problem.
So the argument against your 3-4 coaches 12-13% of population is the amount of the black population vs other races involved in coaching and football which could be closer to 50-50.
That’s not a fair comparison. You can’t remove an entire race of people to make the case, thats moving the goal posts.
We shouldn’t be in the business of ignoring races regardless of which one it is.
Racism exists in football no question. But in this specific hiring instance Reich is worlds above Wilks as far as experience, qualifications, as well as accomplishments.
You could argue Wilks has been discriminated in past coaching positions based on race and I wouldn’t argue that because it’s possible if not likely. That could put make Wilks less competitive because of that. However in this specific hire anyone who says Wilks is the better choice I ask “why”.
Reich has player experience, QB coach experience with successful QBs, successful HC experience with one of the worst owners in sports and the team he now coaches has a dire need at QB which makes him uniquely qualified for the job.
The constant crying over racism is disgusting. I’m sure most people are tired of hearing how everyone is a victim. Is there racism? Yes. And there always has been in this world and always will be. Is it as great to an extent as the media makes it out to be? No.
But to constantly hear racism accusations without evidence is a waste of time. Have you been discriminated against? Show us the evidence. Facts matter, not your feelings.
Should Wilks have been given the full time job? I wouldn’t have, others might. But it’s the owners prerogative who they hire.
Instead of the useless Rooney Rule, how about working with minority coaches and develop them. Maybe it starts at college, USFL, XFL to develop them as coaches more. How about talking to owners and GMs and ask them why they didn’t choose certain coaches. Maybe there’s a common denominator that isn’t just skin color.
And I have to ask all the wannabe victims out tbere: if NFL owners are so racist, why is the hottest coaching candidates right now Demeco Ryans?
a big issue lies within fans like you, who believe that racism will never go away. you said it yourself. racism is a systemic thing, many people dont even realize they have a bias at all, but its crazy to me that people really think there is no end in sight to racism in america. you dont have to enable it. yes, demeco ryans one popular candidate, who has held his role and excelled in it for multiple years now. why is he just now standing out? and why are other HCs getting hired before him, if he is such the name to get? there are examples and counterexamples to every point, but the only way real change is ever going to occur is if we all(fans, owners, players, coaches) look at racism and say, in one or two generations this will be an entirely different subject.
Patriots just did it with Bill O’Brien too. What a sham it was they marched in names like Shawn Jefferson. BOB had that job last season but they didn’t want their buddy Sabin to suffer. There’s definite skullduggery in the NFL.
This is getting old, forced to interview based on skin color and we’ll reward you is in-fact racist. Hire a white guy and you’ll be sued is in-fact extortion
If you think it is hard to get promoted being black you should have been at the University I was at when women were being favored for promotion… even the women were complaining that no males were being promoted… Now me I am upset Becky Hammon is not an NBA head coach… Maybe if Popovich ever starts falling asleep on the bench. I am younger than him and I fall asleep watching the Spurs.
NFL front offices hire who they think gives them the best shot at winning because they will be fired if they don’t eventually win. Whenever black people don’t get a coaching job, they hire Ben Crump and cry racism. Since the United States is mostly Caucasian, more NBA players should be Caucasian.
See how stupid that sounds? You hire the best fit to help your team win.