1:15pm: In addition to Reich, a pair of other Panthers staffers have been let go. Running backs coach Duce Staley – who also held the title of assistant head coach – is out, as is quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, Pelissero reports. Both coaches were hired to Reich’s staff in February, adding to the number of highly-regarded voiced playing a role in shaping the Panthers’ offense. With the unit as a whole and Young in particular struggling, though, it comes as little surprise that they have been dismissed. It will be Brown and Caldwell at the controls on offense moving forward for Carolina.
8:44am: Frank Reich‘s initial season with the Panthers has come to a premature end. The veteran head coach has been let go, as first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The team has since confirmed the move, noting that special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will serve as interim HC.
After another low-scoring output by the team’s offense, the Panthers sit at 1-10. Carolina has struggled with respect to offensive output and developing rookie quarterback Bryce Young. Issues in that regard led to Reich’s decision to cede play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, but that setup was quickly abandoned. Little progress was shown in Reich’s second go-round at the controls on offense, leading to increasing speculation he could find himself going one-and-done in Carolina.
A recent report indicated both Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer were on the hot seat heading into the second half of the season. While Panthers owner David Tepper has established a reputation for having a quick trigger finger on the topic of moving on from coaches, many believed Reich would at least have the remainder of the campaign to show signs of improvement. Instead, the latter is now out just 11 games into a tenure which began with signficant long-term promise.
Reich, 61, was let go midseason last year by the Colts as part of their unconventional decision to turn to Jeff Saturday to close out the campaign. That left him free to pursue other openings, and the Panthers job carried signficant appeal given the understanding a rookie quarterback would be added in the draft. Reich was praised for adding the likes of Brown and senior assistant Jim Caldwell to his staff, but things have not gone according to plan. The former will, to no surprise, reclaim play-calling duties for the remainder of the season, the team announced.
In the end, Reich’s 11-game tenure in Carolina represents the second-shortest head coaching tenure in NFL history. Today’s move marks an end to his sentimental return to Charlotte, as he served as the Panthers’ first quarterback during his playing career. Reich enjoyed success as an OC with the Chargers and Eagles before his Colts appointment, winning a Super Bowl in Philadelphia. Now, his head coaching record sits at 41-42-1.
Tabor does not have full-time head coaching experience (having previously worked with the Bears on an interim basis), but his performance so far has been something of a bright spot in an otherwise disastrous season. The Panthers rank second in the league in special teams DVOA, and they will aim to take a step forward on offense and defense to close out the campaign as they move through a switch on the sidelines for the second consecutive season. Steve Wilks went 6-6 in 2022 after Matt Rhule was fired early in his third season in Carolina. Now, another search will commence in the offseason.
Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was frequently connected to the Panthers’ opening in 2022 before electing to remain in Detroit for at least one more season. It will be interesting to see how aggressively Carolina pursues Johnson in the near future, although the quick Reich dismissal will invite understandable questions about how attractive the Panthers gig is. That is especially true given the team’s lack of a first-round pick in 2023 owing to the blockbuster trade made to acquire the No. 1 selection last spring. In any event, Reich now joins Josh McDaniels as a head coach let go midway through the campaign.
“I met with Coach Reich this morning and informed him that he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said in a statement. “I want to thank Frank for his dedication and service, and we wish him well.”