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Panthers owner explains hiring Reich over Wilks, cites offensive background

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Many around the NFL were at odds and questioned the lack of diversity in the league last week after the Carolina Panthers hired Frank Reich as head coach over Steve Wilks, who overachieved and went 6-6 as the team's interim sideline boss in the season's second half.

But Panthers owner David Tepper said Tuesday that the criticism regarding his team is unfair.

"You should look first at our executive team, and inside the building," Tepper said, according to Carolina Blitz. "Our president is a woman. We probably have the most diverse executive team in the NFL right now. We have two African Americans. We are probably a minority of white men on our executive team right now. That's where it starts. That's America.

"You don't want an old boys' network. I don't care, the old boys' network works all kinds of different ways. Unfortunately in this case it's a detriment because most of the old boys were white. That should be your main focus. How do you break that old boys' network? How do you break that process? You break the process by trying to get the best people possible in every role you can do. Whether it's the new (general counsel) we hired, who happens to be an African American woman. Whether it happens to be Frank Reich, who is a Caucasian male. I don't care who it is."

Wilks, who's Black, was part of a lawsuit former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed against the NFL over alleged racial discrimination in hiring practices. Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer representing Wilks in the lawsuit, released a statement shortly after his client missed out on the Panthers' job, saying, "There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL."

Tepper said Reich's offensive background was the difference-maker for him to land the job over Wilks, who started the season as the Panthers' defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach. Seven of the nine head coaching candidates interviewed by Carolina had an offensive background.

"Every year we get in these NFL meetings, and every year they put in some new rules to benefit the offense," Tepper said, according to ESPN's David Newton. "And the reason it is, scoring brings eyeballs. That's what the league is about, getting eyeballs to watch the thing."

Reich, who the Indianapolis Colts fired after four-plus seasons in November, is Carolina's first offensive-minded head coach. The 61-year-old previously played quarterback for the Panthers.

The 7-10 Panthers ranked 20th and 19th in points scored and allowed in 2022, respectively.

Panthers owner explains hiring Reich over Wilks, cites offensive background
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