Panthers name Frank Reich new head coach
Frank Reich is returning to the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina is hiring Reich as its next head coach, the team announced Thursday. He played quarterback for the team during its inaugural 1995 season.
Reich, the sixth head coach in Panthers history, was a finalist for the job along with Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and Steve Wilks, who posted a 6-6 record as Carolina's interim head coach this season.
Wilks was initially the team's defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach in 2022. The Panthers promoted him after firing Matt Rhule in October following a 1-4 start.
Reich, who played quarterback for four different teams from 1985-98, threw the first touchdown pass in Panthers history.
The 61-year-old spent the last five years as the Indianapolis Colts' head coach, posting a 40-33-1 record while helping Indy reach the playoffs on two occasions. He was fired in November amid a 3-5-1 record.
Reich previously served as offensive coordinator for the then-San Diego Chargers (2014-15) and Philadelphia Eagles (2016-17). He was part of Philly's coaching staff during its Super Bowl-winning campaign before joining the Colts.
He'll be Carolina's first head coach with an offensive background. The Colts boasted a top-10 offense in scoring in three seasons with him on the sideline.
Reich also garnered interest from the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers, who have been looking for a new head coach and new offensive coordinator, respectively.
Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer representing Wilks as part of a lawsuit against the NFL filed by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores over alleged racial discrimination in hiring practices, criticized the decision later Thursday.
"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," the statement read, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press.
"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," Wigdor added.
Wilks said he wishes Reich "all the best" in a statement released Friday on Twitter.
"It was an honor for me to coach those men in the Carolina Panthers locker room as the interim head coach," Wilks said. "Players, coaches, and staff, thank you for your hard work and dedication. I took pride in representing Charlotte, a great city that I love so much."
The Panthers struggled offensively in 2022, ranking 20th in points and 29th in total yards while using three different starting quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and P.J. Walker.
Carolina rosters talented young players on both sides of the ball but heads into next season with a glaring hole at quarterback once again. The club owns the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
The Panthers will host the Colts in 2023.