Lawyer: Frank Reich Hiring Exposes “Legitimate Race Problem” in NFL

Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer for former Carolina interim coach Steve Wilks, may have a point

Frank Reich is coaching a new team.
Former Colts Frank Reich has taken over in Carolina.
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

While the Colts struggle to find a permanent replacement in Indianapolis following his midseason firing, former Indy coach Frank Reich has already found a new gig coaching the Carolina Panthers for team owner David Tepper.

The team, which started last season with Matt Rhule in charge of a sinking ship and ended with former Carolina interim coach Steve Wilks at the helm of a team that ended up playing far better than expected, announced Reich’s hiring on Thursday and the expectation is that his offensive background will help the Panthers, who are still searching for a franchise quarterback to replace long-departed Cam Newton, put up points.

Hiring Reich, who went 40-33-1 in Indianapolis with a constantly changing cast at quarterback, is a totally reasonable move, but it also leaves Wilks, who is Black, without a job and raises questions about exactly why that is the case.

After taking over for Rhule, who was 11-27 overall, before he was fired with the team off to a 1-4 start, Wilks went 6-6 last season while deploying a collection of underwhelming quarterbacks including Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Phillip Walker and Jacob Eason. Even though Wilks was just .500 as a head coach last season, that’s actually far better than Reich (3-5-1) fared last season coaching the Colts.

Nevertheless, Reich is the person who got the job, and the lawyer for Wilks, Douglas Wigdor, has alleged that the hiring was based on the color of his client’s skin and that the NFL has a “legitimate race problem.”

“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 David Tepper,” Wigdor told 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 may have a point as the NFL’s issues with putting minorities in positions of power are well-documented at this juncture and the league already saw one of its few Black head coaches, Lovie Smith, fired after a single season running the Houston Texans.

A true class act, Wilks did not address the race issue with a statement on social media on Friday and instead wished Reich well in addition to saying it was “an honor” to coach the Panthers and represent the city of Charlotte. “The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I,” Wilks said. “I’m disappointed but not defeated. Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through.”

Someone hire that man.

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