While several fans will be awaiting the news of the firing of their team’s head coach in the next two days, Carolina fans have already processed their loss. The normal sequence of events whenever there is a changeover at head coach for an NFL team sees most of the accompanying coaching staff also lose their jobs as the team tends to clear house, allowing the new hire the opportunity to build their staff exactly as they desire. The Panthers, with owner David Tepper at the helm, are not a normal team.
We’ve already seen an example where Tepper asserts his authority, encouraging head coaching candidates a year ago to retain special teams coordinator (and current interim head coach) Chris Tabor and offensive line coach James Campen. Both assistants were retained by the now departed Frank Reich. Whether a direct correlation or not, rookie Bryce Young ended up as the second-most sacked quarterback of the season, and Reich lost his job. So, with Tepper likely to flex his influence once again, who is likely to be vouched for to the candidates who may replace Reich?
Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is a no brainer. Despite giving up the fourth-most points in the NFL this season, the Panthers defense allowed the third-fewest yards this year. The offense routinely put the other unit in bad situations, but the Carolina defense did their best to limit the damage throughout the year.
Evero, though, will be a popular candidate for open head coaching jobs, as he was last year, as well. If the Panthers hire a young, offensive-minded head coach, holding onto Evero could be a perfect recipe for success. Coordinators who leave for head coaching gigs tend to bring their staff with them, so holding on to Evero would likely result in the retention of key defensive assistants like defensive line coach Todd Wash, linebackers coach Peter Hansen, safeties coach Bert Watts, and senior defensive consultant Dom Capers.
Though Evero and his staff could likely depart for greener pastures, it’s even more likely that the staff on the offensive side of the ball won’t return for the Panthers in 2024. The likeliest to return would be Campen, who Tepper continues to back despite a brutal 2023 campaign for the Panthers’ offensive line. Campen is still a highly respected coach in the NFL and delivered a strong offensive line for Carolina in 2022. His most likely route out of Carolina may be due to his connections with Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who seemingly has an outrageous amount of pull in New York.
The rest of the offensive staff, namely offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, face a much different situation. Brown is considered a rising, young mind in the league, earning several head coaching interviews last year before accepting his first coordinator position in Carolina. The coordinator title seemed mostly nominal when he arrived, though, as Reich retained play-calling duties for the offense to start the year.
This fit Brown just fine, as Brown’s best coaching qualities are more leadership-oriented than offensive. That didn’t stop Brown from providing dissenting opinions about the direction of the offense with Reich this year, leading to multiple arguments in house. Brown did lead Young to his only two wins as a play caller this year, but ultimately, the Panthers offense did not flourish under his eventual reign as play caller. There’s a chance that Brown, alone, could be retained for his leadership abilities, if Carolina does in fact hire a young, offensive-minded head coach, but the rest of the offensive staff would likely be replaced by the new hire’s preferred assistants.
Lastly, Tabor seems invincible in Carolina. While he doesn’t seem likely to receive any serious consideration for the permanent head coaching job, Tepper continues to favor Tabor for his leadership as the interim head coach and his record as a special teams coordinator.
All of this stands as mere speculation, though, until Carolina is able to secure their newest head coach. And with Tepper employing six coaches (including interims) as skippers since buying the team in 2018, he’s developing a reputation that may make it difficult to lure in top talent. According to ESPN’s David Newton, sources around the league believe that Tepper’s impatience for head coaches, coupled with his recent drink toss that led to a $300K fine, will impact the team’s head coaching search, making it difficult to nail down the candidates of their choice.
Still, a head coaching opportunity is the pinnacle of the profession, and someone will be sure to nail down this newest opportunity in Carolina. They just may be pressed to include some of the above coaches in their new staff.