One of the NFL’s more interesting plot twists came today when the Carolina Panthers made assistant Steve Wilks their interim head coach after firing Matt Rhule five games into his second terrible season at the helm.
If you think I’m about to tell you why that’s a reason to be optimistic that the class action racial discrimination lawsuit is pushing the NFL to make progress, well, you might want to stop right here to avoid having your dreams shattered.
Wilks, if you weren’t aware, is one of the current and former Black NFL head coaches who joined former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ class action racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and several of its teams. That lawsuit alleges that the league maintains a system that sets Black coaches up to fail at ascending to the head coach position by conducting sham interviews under the league’s Rooney Rule. Left unsaid in the lawsuit is how frequently NFL teams have bypassed qualified Black coaching candidates in favor of disasters waiting to happen, which brings us to the Panthers and Rhule.
The Panthers are off to an awful start with only one win in five games (which is saying a lot coming from a guy who roots for a team that’s also currently 1-4 and had its worst loss in 33 years yesterday). Last season was no better nor the year before that, with Rhule losing 27 out of the total 38 games he head coached before Carolina canned him. Prior to that, Rhule’s NFL experience consisted of being an assistant on the New York Giants’ staff.
Otherwise he head coached in the college ranks at Temple and Baylor before getting a shot at an NFL head coaching gig with a $62 million contract attached; the Panthers will pay him $40 million on that deal to go away.
Wilks’ NFL resume includes time as an assistant head coach, defensive coordinator or position coach for four different NFL teams before he was named head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, a gig that lasted only one year and in which Wilks was given virtually no shot at success. Then he never got another shot at head coaching again, until now, when once again he’s inheriting a losing, demoralized squad that’s been run into the ground by a coach who got first dibs despite having far less experience than Wilks.
In other words: pretty much exactly what the lawsuit says happens to Black coaches in the NFL. Wilks should never have had to wait for Rhule to fail to get another shot at head coaching, but hopefully this time he’ll actually have enough time to turn things around.
This content was originally published here.