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'I have no regrets': Steve Wilks hopes to be Panthers full-time head coach

The Charlotte native unexpectedly led the team to a 6-6 finish to the season under his guidance.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Steve Wilks, who sports an ever-serious disposition, managed to make a pretty good joke on Monday.

The Carolina Panthers interim coach was asked if he'd done the "incredible job" owner David Tepper said was required for Wilks to be retained as the permanent coach.

"That's someone's opinion of what they consider to be incredible," Wilks said. "What I consider to be incredible the things that I do around the house, my wife doesn't see it that way."

Wilks, who is generally all business, quickly transitioned from the joke and answered the question.

"It just depends on how you perceive what's incredible," Wilks said. "I'll let (Tepper) determine that factor."

If it wasn't incredible, it was close.

Wilks took over a 1-4 team after Matt Rhule was fired, and guided it to a 6-6 record the rest of the way, coming up one win short of the NFC South championship and a home playoff game.

The 53-year-old Charlotte native won more games than Rhule did in each of his first two full seasons at the helm.

Wilks did all of that after the team traded its No. 1 offensive option (Christian McCaffrey), its No. 2 receiver (Robbie Anderson), and with a limited quarterback room of P.J. Walker, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold.

"None of you guys expected us to even be in this situation," Wilks said. "To be able to take a 1-4 team and get to the doorstep of possibly winning this division and going to the playoffs, I have no regrets whatsoever. "

Carolina's players have consistently voiced their support of Wilks, with veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson even saying after Sunday's 10-7 over New Orleans, that he would lead a group to speak to Tepper.

Second-year cornerback Jaycee Horn was all in on that.

"Definitely," Horn said. "I would definitely be a part of that group. I'm a big fan of Wilks. Probably every guy in this locker room is a big fan of Wilks."

General Manager Scott Fitterer was conservative in his remarks about Wilks potentially retaining the position full-time.

Fitterer, who was hired in 2021, said he would be a part of the Panthers' search for a new coach along with owner David Tepper, and his wife Nicole, who is the Chief Administrative Officer of Tepper Sports and Entertainment.

Fitterer said that the pool of candidates for the position would not be a "large group."

"Anytime you're looking for a head coach, you're looking for a leader," Fitterer said. "An organized person. Everybody's looking for the same characteristics, but then there's a bunch of variations in there."

Although Wilks is a minority interim head coach, the NFL's Rooney Rule would still apply, meaning the Panthers still need to conduct in-person interviews with two external minority candidates.

If those candidates are employed by other teams, interviews cannot be conducted until the conclusion of the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

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