Charlotte, NC

The Steve Wilks Era starts off on the wrong foot

Eugene Adams
Photo by Zac Gudakov on Unsplash

Coach Steve Wilks deserves this shot. At 53 years old, he has been around the game for a long time. 

His first year as a head coach was at Savannah State University in 1999. He broke into the NFL as the Chicago Bear’s DB coach in 2006. 

He was also wildly successful in his first stint with the Carolina Panthers. In 2012 he was hired as the DB coach. By the time he left in 2017, he had worked his way up to Defensive Coordinator/assistant HC.

Even though his one-year stint as the Cardinals HC didn’t go as planned, he has still proven he deserves the chance to be a head coach in this league. 

Unfortunately, the first game of the Steve Wilks Era didn’t go as planned. They lost 10–24 to the struggling Rams. 

There were two significant issues in the game that the Panthers will need to work out if they want to find success. 

In PJ we don’t trust

The Panthers are very familiar with PJ Walker at this point. He has been with the Panthers since 2020 and was even 2–0 as a starter coming into this week. 

Despite that familiarity, the Panthers don’t trust him at all. Walker was 10 of 16 passing for 60 yards. Almost all of his passes were quick screens. They completely avoided throwing the ball downfield at all. 

McCaffery was the lone bright spot of the offense. 

  • 13 rushes for 69 yards
  • 7 receptions for 89 yards

NFL defenses aren’t stupid; they pick up on obvious tendencies quickly. The Panthers can’t rely solely on McCaffrey to carry the team; they eventually need to pass the ball as well. 

Robbie Anderson vs. Joe Dailey

Robbie Anderson is a talented receiver. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had a lot of chances to show it this year with the poor QB play. 

Things got even worse on Sunday. He confronted receivers coach Joe Dailey after being pulled from the game. That resulted in him not seeing the field for the rest of the day. He has also kicked off the sideline in the fourth quarter. 

Steve Wilks and Robbie Anderson both spoke about the situation after the game. 

“It was a sideline-type situation that I felt like I wanted to try to get him in at the moment and that’s something that we’ll discuss as we get further into the week. I’m going to say this, no one is bigger than the team. And I’m not going to focus and put a lot of attention on one individual. We can talk about the game. We can talk about situations within the game. We can talk about the things we’re going to do moving forward, but I’m not putting a lot of energy into one individual.”-Steve Wilks

While Coach Wilks framed the situation as an issue of Anderson being “bigger than the team,” Anderson framed it as him just wanting to help. 

“I made a comment. It’s money down. Why am I being taken out? You shouldn’t be okay with not being on that turf. You should want to make a play. Losing is not acceptable. We don’t play this game to lose, you know?”-Robbie Anderson

He also expressed confusion about why exactly he was removed from the game. 

“I was confused honestly cause I want to be in the game. I’ve never been told in x amount of years to get out the game in the fourth quarter. So I was honestly confused and upset by it as I should be. I don’t see nobody that’s a true competitor that knows the value they bring and has true passion toward the game that would be okay with being told not to do something or being taken out of something when they didn’t do nothing wrong.”-Anderson

Final Thoughts 

I want Steve Wilks to be successful. He seems like a hardworking guy who earned this shot. 

However, his decision to keep the Offensive Coordinator will look bad if the offense doesn’t get it together. Scoring 3 points on offense won’t cut it in this league. 

Coach Wilks also needs to handle team conflict better if he wants to get a chance to lead the Panthers long-term. 

I don’t know who is right in the Robbie Anderson versus the coaches situation, and it doesn’t matter. The bigger problem is communication issues. Coach Wilks framed it as Anderson trying to be “bigger than the team.” Anderson framed it as him being a competitor and not finding losing acceptable. 

One way or another, the Panthers need to get on the same page before this season goes even more off the rails. 

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Southern California raised Henderson transplant. I write about sports and other events in the area.

Henderson, NV

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