Frank Reich

Frank Reich Unlikely To Coach Again; Panthers Expected To Target Offensive HC For 2024

NOVEMBER 28: When speaking to the media in the wake of Reich’s dismissal, Tepper unsurprisingly pushed back on the notion that his impatience regarding coaches will make the Panthers opening an unattractive one. He also suggested, via Person, that an outside hiring firm will not be consulted for the latest search process (subscription required). Tepper has elected to keep his previous hiring decisions in-house, and it appears that will remain the case in 2023.

Confirming previous reports on the matter – as well as Reich’s public remarks – Tepper also said the Panthers’ decision to draft Young over C.J. Stroud was “unanimous.” Tepper is widely understood to have played a role in the selection (as well as other elements of the team’s football operations), but his assertion on the matter of the Young pick may help smooth over meddling-related concerns for prospective coaching candidates, especially if those with a background on offense are again prioritized.

NOVEMBER 27: Frank Reich now joins Nathaniel Hackett, Urban Meyer and Pete McCulley as the only post-merger head coaches to be fired before their first season ended. This resided as a McCulley-only list for more than 40 years, but owners have acted swiftly over the past three. David Tepper pulled the plug on a four-year contract Monday, and Reich’s firing edges out Hackett and Meyer, who were respectively fired 15 and 13 games into their Denver and Jacksonville HC tenures. Only McCulley was fired sooner since 1970; the 49ers canned him after nine games.

Offset language helped the Panthers avoid much of the remaining payments on the ill-fated seven-year Matt Rhule contract, with the longtime college HC signing on as Nebraska’s leader. But Reich may not give the Panthers the chance to recoup money. The veteran NFL HC and assistant and former quarterback said shortly after his firing this is probably it for him in the NFL, though he did not definitively announce a retirement.

This is probably the final chapter of my NFL journey,” Reich said, via the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler. “… There’s a heart-pounding disappointment in not hitting the marks that we needed to hit to keep this going and try to get it turned around. It hurts me for the guys, the team, the coaches and the fans.

Reich has been an NFL assistant or head coach since 2006, moving into the profession on a full-time basis eight years after his playing career concluded. The Super Bowl-winning OC’s remark Monday differs from his plan upon being fired midway through last season. Following the Colts dismissal, Reich revealed intentions to coach again. He received another opportunity, beating out Steve Wilks for the Carolina job. But the Panthers regressed after making that change. Despite Reich being in his first season, Tepper, who was irate after a Week 12 loss dropped the Panthers to 1-10, canned the coach he hired in January.

Reich, 61, appeared to pull back the curtain on rumblings of Tepper overreach during the season, indicating the owner took a hands-on approach. While animosity would understandably exist after being fired 11 games into his tenure, the well-liked coach did not indicate any existed. Tepper has now fired three coaches in-season; he dismissed Ron Rivera 12 games into the 2019 campaign.

I want to convey that I have nothing but positive thoughts about Mr. Tepper. On a personal level, I saw a side of him that I deeply respect and care about,” Reich said, via Fowler. “But the NFL is a meritocracy. It’s not unconditional love. I understand from a professional standpoint Mr. Tepper is going to have certain standards that he expects to have met. I have no hard feelings, and my personal relationship with him was actually a real highlight of this short time.”

Firing coaches during the season in back-to-back years brings the latest round of turmoil for the Tepper-era Panthers, whose first-round pick — stationed atop the 2024 draft board with six weeks left — goes to the Bears via the Bryce Young trade. It will be interesting to see the run of candidates interested in the job, but despite Reich’s struggles, The Athletic’s Joe Person indicates the sixth-year owner is likely to again target an offense-minded HC (subscription required).

As should be expected, veteran special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is unlikely to receive much consideration for the long-term job,’s David Newton and Jeremy Fowler note. Although Tabor has been an NFL special teams coach since 2008, the path for ST staffers to rise to the top sideline job — John Harbaugh‘s Baltimore success notwithstanding — remains narrow.

Wilks drew support to become the first interim HC since Doug Marrone (Jaguars, 2017) to see his interim tag removed, but Person adds Tepper had zeroed in on an offense-geared coach. Ben Johnson had emerged as Tepper’s top target, but the young Lions OC removed his name from consideration a week before the Panthers hired Reich. Wilks interviewed twice along with Reich, instead ending up as the 49ers’ DC. It is not surprising to see an owner prefer an offensively oriented HC, given recent NFL trends. The Panthers will aim for a leader who can get more out of Young, presumably with a better cast of weaponry in place for 2024.

The Panthers fired Young’s position coach and their running backs coach after canning Reich, and’s Ian Rapoport indicates the ousters of Josh McCown and Duce Staley came from Tabor and Jim Caldwell. Staley had worked with Reich in Philadelphia as well, while McCown interviewed twice for Houston’s HC job.

A Reich hire, Caldwell has received more power following Monday morning’s change. Thomas Brown is back in place as the play-caller, however. Reich had taken back play-calling duties after handing them off to Brown for a three-game stretch. The Panthers, who had attempted to blend Reich concepts with those Brown learned from Sean McVay with the Rams, rank 30th in total offense and 29th in points scored.

Former Panthers tight end-turned-FOX analyst Greg Olsen would be interested in the position, per Person, should Tepper contact him regarding what would be an outside-the-box hire. Olsen is best remembered for his Panthers years and is early in his broadcasting career. FOX, however, is still planning to effectively demote him for Tom Brady in 2024.

Prior to the Panthers’ Week 12 loss to the Titans,’s Mike Garafolo had not gotten the sense Reich being a one-and-done was a certainty (video link). Though, Reich and GM Scott Fitterer were reported to be on the hot seat several days ago. Tepper had naturally planned to evaluate Reich’s work at season’s end. It turned out the owner no longer wanted the former Carolina QB mentoring Young, whom the owner was believed to have made a strong push for ahead of the draft. Hired to work with Rhule in 2021, Fitterer should certainly be considered on a hot seat going into the season’s home stretch.

Panthers Fire HC Frank Reich

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.”

Panthers HC Frank Reich, GM Scott Fitterer On Hot Seat

Last year, the Panthers fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start. Interim HC Steve Wilks then led the team to a 6-6 finish that left it still in the NFC South race until Week 17. Despite many of the same cornerstone players in place, Carolina’s 2023 edition has the NFL’s worst record.

Trading up significant assets to secure Bryce Young at No. 1 overall, the Panthers were never viewed as a team that would truly contend this season. But their disappointing first half has many around the league wondering if David Tepper will bail on the power structure he signed off on in January. One member of Carolina’s power duo may be on a hotter seat than the other, but both Frank Reich and GM Scott Fitterer do not appear certain to retain their jobs beyond this season.

Many around the NFL are eyeing this situation, with the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora noting there is a strong sense Reich will become a one-and-done. Even within the Panthers’ building, La Canfora adds the belief is jobs are on the line going into the season’s second half. This would be a stunning flip-flop from ownership — especially after Rhule went from receiving a seven-year contract to being canned after Week 5 of his third season — but Tepper has not exactly gained a reputation for stability during his early years running the NFC South team. Indeed, Tepper’s reputation is driving the speculation Reich will be canned after just one season, Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline adds.

Tepper is believed to be irked by Young’s performance thus far, an NFL personnel exec informed La Canfora while adding the sixth-year owner drove the bus for the Alabama prospect. When the Panthers obtained the No. 1 overall pick, rumors of Reich preferring C.J. Stroud surfaced. Those steadily faded, as Young won the organization over despite his slight frame. The Panthers have seen Stroud hit the ground running with the Texans, and despite Carolina’s only win coming over Houston, the team has taken significant steps back compared to how it finished in 2022.

Among qualified passers, Young ranks only ahead of Ryan Tannehill in QBR this season. The former Heisman winner sits last in yards per attempt — at just 5.4 — and has thrown eight touchdown passes compared to seven interceptions. Young’s struggles should probably have been expected, given Carolina’s skill-position deficiencies. The team gave Miles Sanders the top RB contract in free agency; Chuba Hubbard has since leapfrogged the ex-Eagle for the starting role. Adam Thielen has gone from Vikings cap casualty to the Panthers’ No. 1 target, in his age-33 season. Thielen has been productive in Carolina; no one else in this skill group has. Neither DJ Chark nor Hayden Hurst — the latter receiving the top tight end deal this offseason — has topped 230 receiving yards this year.

After pointing to Thomas Brown being in consideration to call plays this offseason, Reich handed the duties off during the team’s bye week. Three games in, Reich took back the reins from the young OC. The Panthers did not top 15 points in a game during Brown’s short run calling the shots, and while the veteran HC said this about-face is not indicative of Brown’s long-term future, the quick change was certainly notable.

Reich beat out Wilks for the Panthers’ top job, with Tepper preferring an offense-oriented HC. The five-year Colts leader is the Panthers’ first offense-geared sideline boss. Well respected, Reich being fired from two HC jobs in two years would undoubtedly drop him back to the coordinator tier moving forward. Reich, 61, did pull back the curtain a bit on Tepper’s style earlier this season by pointing to the owner being heavily involved in football operations via the two’s weekly meetings. After the experience Reich had with Jim Irsay in Indianapolis, this is familiar territory.

But Reich may also not be the likeliest Panthers power broker to go. Fitterer should not be expected to weather this storm, according to Pauline. Fitterer arrived in 2021 to work with Rhule, following a successful tenure as a Seahawks exec, and was left in power ahead of the 2022 trade deadline. The veteran staffer pulled the trigger on a Christian McCaffrey trade, giving the Panthers four draft choices, but did not accept a Rams offer of two first-rounders for Brian Burns. The young defensive end was not believed to have drawn similar interest at this year’s deadline, which came after the Panthers could not extend him this offseason. A franchise tag is now expected for Burns, but it is far from certain Tepper will have Fitterer making that call.

Some members of the Panthers’ organization do not believe this is a well-assembled roster, and the team’s 1-8 record supports that. Despite being in a seller’s position, the Panthers pursued wide receivers — months after trading longtime No. 1 target D.J. Moore — at the deadline. Fitterer, who took a backseat to Rhule, has final say over Carolina’s 53-man roster. The Panthers lost to a Bears team missing Justin Fields; Carolina being in position to potentially hand over the 2024 No. 1 pick to Chicago would present difficult optics for Fitterer, who received a vote of confidence from Tepper after the Rhule firing.

Tepper firing Reich after one season would not make this a particularly attractive job, though the owner’s past authorizing big contracts for HCs and paying top dollar for assistants will help. This will be a situation to monitor during the season’s second half.

Panthers HC Frank Reich Reclaims Play-Calling Duties

NOVEMBER 15: Brown’s initial run as Panthers play-caller will stop after three games. Reich will indeed take back the play-calling reins, he revealed Wednesday. Reich, who called plays throughout his Colts HC tenure, said early this offseason he saw Brown as a future play-caller. The Panthers picked up their first win with Brown calling the shots, though after topping 20 points in three of its first six games, the team has not exceeded 15 over the past three.

While Reich said (via Person and ESPN’s Adam Schefter) this will still be a collaborative process and that it will not impact Brown’s standing with the team, the quick turnaround certainly qualifies as an interesting development for the 1-8 team. Although the Panthers are in a clear rebuild, this season is obviously pivotal to Young’s long-term growth. Through that lens, Reich’s experience calling plays is rather important.

NOVEMBER 14: Frank Reich made it clear before his debut season as Panthers head coach that he would begin the year as the team’s play-caller, but that offensive coordinator Thomas Brown would be handed the reins at some point. A switch was made one month ago, but a quick change in course may be coming soon.

With Carolina struggling to produce on offense early in rookie quarterback Bryce Young‘s career, Reich chose the bye week as the time to delegate to Brown. The latter had never called plays at the NFL level, but his time with the Rams earned him a reputation as one of the league’s top young offensive minds. Brown’s three games in charge have not gone as planned, however, with the Panthers managing just two offensive touchdowns.

When speaking publicly in the wake of Carolina’s Thursday night loss to the Bears, Reich has on multiple occasions declined to confirm that Brown will remain the team’s play-caller. He has indicated, though, via Joe Person of The Athletic, that personnel changes are being considered on offense (subscription required). It remains to be seen what that will entail, but pressure is believed to be mounting for improvements to be made by Reich and Co. before the end of the campaign.

Panthers owner David Tepper has reportedly grown frustrated with the lack of progress shown by Young and a unit which has struggled both on the ground and through the air. Carolina ranks near the bottom of the league in a number of offensive categories, including 29th in both points (17) and yards (305) per game. A lack of week-to-week improvement shown during Brown’s (very brief) period at the helm could lead Reich to take back play-calling duties at some point in the near future, a move which would give the team a more experienced voice guiding the unit.

“However we’ve done the play-calling – whoever’s been doing the play-calling – we haven’t performed as an offense. So let me just make that point clear, first of all, Reich said. “As I look toward, now, the last half of the season, what’s the best dynamic and why? Any decision that’s ultimately made is just gonna be based on that one pure factor. So that’s how we’ll approach it.”

The 1-8 Panthers do not own their first-round pick in 2024 due to last year’s trade which landed them Young. With no incentive to continue their poor first half of the campaign, it will be interesting to see what changes are made down the stretch, and how the offense responds to them.

Panthers Pursued WRs Davante Adams And Tee Higgins, DE Montez Sweat At Deadline

Despite a win-loss record that placed them squarely in the “sellers” category, we heard in the run-up to last month’s trade deadline that the Panthers were operating as both buyers and sellers. We also heard that Carolina was especially interested in acquiring a top-flight wide receiver, and to that end, David Newton of reports that the team pursued both the Raiders’ Davante Adams and the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, though neither club was willing to make a deal. Newton adds that GM Scott Fitterer also tried to acquire DE Montez Sweat, whom the Commanders ultimately traded to the Bears.

The early struggles of rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, have created plenty of concern among the Panthers’ fanbase, especially since No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud is playing at a high level for the Texans and since Carolina paid such a premium for the privilege to climb up the draft board to select Young. However, Newton writes that head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer still believe their plan to trade high-end draft capital — including their 2024 first-round pick — and top receiver D.J. Moore was a sound one that will pay dividends in the future. Likewise, Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) says that the organization is still unified in the belief that Young is the long-term answer at quarterback.

In order to get the most out of Young, the Panthers understand that they need to give him more playmakers, which is why they pursued Adams and Higgins (they were not alone in that regard, as the Jets made a play for both receivers as well). Adams’ career accomplishments, which include six Pro Bowl nods and three First Team All-Pro selections, dwarf those of Higgins, who has not yet made a Pro Bowl. Nonetheless, Higgins is six years younger than Adams, is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and clearly has WR1 upside.

While Adams is under club control through 2026, Higgins is due to be a free agent at season’s end. If they had acquired the Clemson product, the Panthers would have needed to sign him to an extension or put the franchise tag on him, so his contract situation would have been a priority agenda item alongside a new deal (or franchise tag) for edge rusher Brian Burns. According to Newton, Carolina retained Burns through a second consecutive deadline in which he generated plenty of trade interest because the team views him and Young as foundational pieces of a future contender. Though the Panthers are presently without a 2024 first-rounder, they do have $42MM in projected cap space next season along with six other draft picks, and the plan is to turn those assets into talent to complement Burns and Young.

The latest reporting on the matter suggests that Burns and the Panthers are not actively engaged in contract talks, and Newton confirms prior reports that the two sides were far apart when negotiations stopped in December. If player and team cannot come to terms, Burns will be hit with the franchise tag, according to Newton.

If Fitterer were successful in his pursuit of Sweat, he certainly would have had a dynamic pair of pass rushers to headline his defense. However, Sweat was also in a contract year at the time of his trade and signed a lucrative extension shortly after arriving in Chicago, so the Panthers would have needed to authorize a similar contract for Sweat or quickly close the gap with Burns in order to assure themselves of the chance to retain both players.

As it stands, Fitterer & Co. will be able to focus most of their early offseason efforts on Burns’ new deal — if Fitterer is still around, that is. Per Russini, there are some members of the organization that believe the roster has not been assembled correctly, and owner David Tepper is frustrated by a Reich-orchestrated offense that league sources have described as “boring,” “predictable,” and “lifeless.” Reich, of course, was hired by Fitterer, and Russini says the “message in the building” is that ownership needs to see offensive improvement in the second half of the season.

If that does not happen, then Russini expects changes to be made. It is unclear if that simply means a shake-up to Reich’s offensive staff, or if Reich himself could be in jeopardy. It is fair to wonder whether Fitterer might also be on the hot seat, though ownership apparently is satisfied with how the defense and special teams units are performing.

Panthers’ Frank Reich Cedes Play-Calling Duties To OC Thomas Brown

In the wake of a sixth straight loss to open the season, the Panthers will have a new voice leading the offense on the sidelines. Head coach Frank Reich has ceded play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets.

Reich took charge of guiding Carolina’s offense when he was hired as head coach, a move which led to optimism about the team’s ability to find long-term success on that side of the ball with rookie quarterback Bryce Young and Co. He made it clear on several occasions, however, that he would hand over play-calling duties at some point in the not-too distant future with a well-respected assistant in the form of Brown in place. With Carolina now on the bye week, that time as come.

A report from yesterday indicated Reich would carry on with the current arrangement for the time being, but Week 6 produced another underwhelming performance on offense. The Panthers managed just 188 yards through the air and went a combined 5-for-19 on third and fourth down in a 21-point loss to the Dolphins. Conversations within the organization had led to questions about the team’s ongoing struggles putting up points, something which foreshadowed today’s move. However, Reich confirmed on Monday that this decision was his, not one imposed from the front office.

Brown, 37, has been named as one of the league’s top up-and-coming offensive minds for a few years now. He spent nine years in the college ranks (including three as the University of Miami’s OC) before joining Sean McVay‘s Rams staff in 2020. Brown served as a running backs, and, later, tight ends coach during his time in Los Angeles and he held the title of assistant head coach for his final two years there. His Panthers hire signaled the possibility of handling play-calling duties at the pro level for the first time, and he will now guide the team’s offense moving forward.

Carolina currently sits 23rd in the league in both total and scoring offense, so the team has plenty of room for improvement after the bye. Brown will look to help Young, the top pick in April’s draft, take a step forward from the generally underwhelming start in the NFL he has had so far. Doing so would likely get the team in the win column, and help the front office evaluate a unit which, with the notable exception of veteran wideout Adam Thielen, has not seen signficant production amongst its skill-position group.

A strong showing from Brown on the sidelines would also, of course, help his and Reich’s standing in the organization and quell a perceived need from owner David Tepper to make personnel changes early in the franchise’s latest chapter. Plenty of attention will be on Brown as he looks to prove the confidence placed in him to be well-founded.

Panthers Not Considering Staff Changes; Frank Reich To Remain Play-Caller

OCTOBER 15: While Reich has discussed handing play-calling duties to Brown at some point, that responsbility will remain with Reich for now, as Ian Rapoport of writes. Carolina dropped a 42-24 decision to the Lions last week, but the stripped-down, streamlined offense that the club put in place to simplify matters for Young appeared to pay dividends, as the rookie passer threw for 247 yards and three TDs, both of which were season-high marks.

Interestingly, a source told Tyler Dunne of this week that some members of the Panthers organization approached Reich about the need to be more innovative on the offensive side of the ball, though it is unclear whether those conversations happened before or after Reich decided to simplify the playbook.

What is clear, as Rapoport observes, is that Reich’s future in Carolina is tied to Young’s success. So the HC will need to do whatever it takes to get this year’s No. 1 overall pick to begin living up to his potential.

OCTOBER 12: The NFL’s only 0-5 team, the Panthers are off to a worse start than the one that led to Matt Rhule‘s firing after five games last year. Carolina rallied under interim HC Steve Wilks, going 6-6 and having an unexpected opportunity to take the division lead in Week 17. A loss to the Buccaneers ended that, and the Panthers moved on from Wilks.

Frank Reich beat out Wilks for the HC job, but the two-time playoff-qualifying leader has now lost eight consecutive games dating back to his final stretch running the Colts. In addition to Reich, the Panthers paid up for high-profile assistants. They hired the likes of Ejiro Evero, who interviewed for all five HC jobs this offseason, and Thomas Brown — a Texans HC interviewee — as coordinators. Jim Caldwell, Josh McCown, Duce Staley and the Panthers’ first HC — Dom Capers — are also in place. But the team has not found its footing with Bryce Young at the helm.

Reich said (via The Athletic’s Joe Person) David Tepper has not discussed staff changes with him just yet, though the new Panthers HC confirmed past rumors that the sixth-year owner is frequently involved with football operations.

Some owners kind of stay away and don’t engage a whole lot. Other owners do. And his philosophy is he’s gonna engage,” Reich said, via Person (subscription required). “Listen, it’s only been a short experience, but it’s been a really good experience. … It hasn’t been fun. I wouldn’t characterize [weekly meetings with Tepper] as fun meetings. But those meetings make me better, and I trust they make us better.

Meddlesome ownership obviously could sound alarm bells for Reich, who is coming off an eventful final year with perhaps the league’s most active owner (among those not holding GM titles as well). Jim Irsay began to spin back into high gear after the Colts lost as two-touchdown favorites to the then-downtrodden Jaguars to close out the 2021 season. Orders to trade Carson Wentz and then to trade for Matt Ryan emerged, and Irsay then insisted Reich bench Ryan for an unseasoned Sam Ehlinger. Irsay then fired Reich, despite extending him in 2021. The outspoken owner later said he reluctantly extended his five-year HC. The Jeff Saturday and Jonathan Taylor sagas proceeded post-Reich.

Tepper, who bought the team from Jerry Richardson in 2018, has developed a bit of a reputation on this front as well. Although subsequent reports indicated the Panthers came to an agreement on Young, a March report pointed to Tepper’s Young preference over an early coaches’ interest in C.J. Stroud. Before the 2022 season ended, Tepper was believed to be eyeing a move that solved the Panthers’ years-long QB woes. Carolina indeed swung big, trading D.J. Moore and several high-level draft choices for the No. 1 slot.

Tepper also played a lead role in past quarterback pursuits, namely the controversial one surrounding Deshaun Watson — a journey that began after Matthew Stafford nixed a trade to Carolina. Tepper eyed Watson before the dozens of masseuses accused the then-Texans QB of sexual misconduct, and the Panthers revisited trade talks — along with the Dolphins — ahead of the 2021 deadline. While Tepper joined his Saints and Falcons peers in being unwilling to authorize a $230MM guarantee, Watson had eliminated the Panthers earlier due to some uncertainty about their power structure. Months later, the Browns and Panthers haggled about Baker Mayfield‘s contract for months — despite Rhule and Scott Fitterer wanting him in the building early — before the sides closed the deal. A report surfaced around the time of Tepper’s about-face on Rhule that pegged the owner as “emotional” and difficult to work for.

That said, Reich was not in contention for another HC job this offseason and, at 61, the ex-Carolina QB may not have had many more chances as a lead candidate. His second HC opportunity has started quite poorly, with the Panthers holding a minus-53 point differential and lacking a first-round pick next year. It will be interesting to see how the Panthers proceed going forward, especially if the losing streak continues. The Panthers face the Dolphins in Week 6. Reich signed a four-year contract in January. Fitterer’s five-year GM deal runs through the 2025 season.

Latest On Panthers’ Trade Deadline Plans, Bryce Young’s Struggles

Reports over the past week have suggested that the Panthers are seeking to add not just a wide receiver, but a top-flight wide receiver, which they believe will accelerate rookie quarterback Bryce Young‘s development. Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) echoed those reports today, writing that Carolina has placed calls to other teams and has inquired on wideouts and players at “other positions” (including, perhaps, safeties).

Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports offers something of a contradictory report and says that the team has no interest in trading “legitimate” draft capital. After all, the Panthers do not presently have a first-round pick in 2024 thanks to the offseason trade that netted them the first overall pick of the 2023 draft and allowed them to select Young, and they are not just one wideout away from being a championship contender. But even if a team were inclined to trade an elite receiver at the deadline — and such deals are usually consummated during the offseason — it would be difficult to imagine that happening unless Carolina parts with high-end draft picks.

Some sort of player package could theoretically allow GM Scott Fitterer to acquire a wideout without a major sacrifice of draft capital, though the only players that would likely intrigue a club looking to move a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver are foundational players that Fitterer would presumably want to keep. Russini does note that the Panthers have told other teams they are not looking to sell — i.e. trade players for picks — at the October 31 trade deadline, so as of right now, it could be that only minor transactions are on the horizon for Carolina.

The 0-5 outfit is the only winless club left in the league, but as ESPN’s David Newton writes, head coach Frank Reich is not panicking.

“It’s terrible we’re 0-4,” Reich said this week. “It’s terrible that we haven’t had more success on offense for [Young] to feel that a little bit more. But I really believe and know that’s coming. There will be stuff that we gain, that he gains, that going through this difficulty, the mental toughness and the grit, fighting through that will pay dividends later.”

To that end, the team is trying to simplify matters for Young, as Jones reports. Between Reich, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, and senior offensive assistant Jim Caldwell, there are a number of well-respected minds on the staff, but there may be too many voices in Young’s ear.

While Young’s intelligence and processing ability are attributes that convinced the Panthers to draft him, those same attributes may also be holding him back right now. He absorbs and tries to put into action all of the input he receieves from the staff, and according to Jones, that “information overload” has contributed to Young’s disappointing start to his pro career.

It makes sense that a simpler, more streamlined offense would be beneficial for any rookie passer, regardless of that player’s mental acuity. It is unclear what that means for Carolina’s short-term gameplans, but we may see it in action today, as the Panthers try to secure their first victory of the season.

Panthers Eyeing Three-Down Role For RB Miles Sanders

The Panthers’ investment in Miles Sanders (four years, $25MM) was one of a small number of lengthy commitments made at the running back position this offseason. The terms of the deal suggest he will have a multi-faceted role in Carolina’s offense, and both player and team anticipate that will be the case.

[RELATED: Sanders Addresses Eagles Exit]

Sanders showed an ability to contribute in the passing game during his rookie season with the Eagles. He recorded 509 yards and three touchdowns on 50 receptions in 2019, but his totals in terms of targets, catches and yards decreased with each passing campaign after that. He expects to once again have a signficant workload through the air.

I think it’ll happen organically just by the coaches that we have here,” the 26-year-old said, via Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). “And they know exactly what type of back I am… I’m looking forward to getting back into that three-down-type back and just flow with it and see what happens.”

Sanders’ position coach in Carolina this year will be Duce Staley, as was the case for his first two campaigns in Philadelphia. Staley was named as a reason Sanders chose to join the Panthers, and the team’s new-look staff will aim to replicate the former second-rounder’s career year (built mostly on rushing production) in 2022. Head coach Frank Reich acknowledged that doing so will involve an uptick in his target share compared to his three most recent Eagles campaigns.

“Miles [is] just a versatile, three-down back” Reich recently said of Sanders, who comfortably sits atop the RB depth chart. “He’s really, in a lot of ways, a complete back. We really look for that in that No. 1 spot. Want [him] to be on the field all three downs.”

Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear remain in place as depth options after the midseason trade of Christian McCaffrey and the free agent departure of D’Onta Foreman. Their playing time would stand to take a slight step back if Sanders were to remain on the field during passing situations in Carolina, though a three-down approach could pay dividends for an offense which will be led by rookie quarterback Bryce Young. The way snaps are divided in training camp will be worth watching as Sanders settles into his new home.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

After the 2022 offseason produced 10 new head coaches, this one brought a step back in terms of turnover. Five teams changed HCs, though each conducted thorough searches — four of them lasting until at least January 31.

The Colts and Cardinals hired their HCs after Super Bowl LVII, plucking the Eagles’ offensive and defensive coordinators (Shane Steichen, Jonathan Gannon). The Cardinals were hit with a tampering penalty regarding their Gannon search. Conducting their second HC search in two years, the Broncos saw multiple candidates drop out of the running. But Denver’s new ownership group convinced Sean Payton to step out of the FOX studio and back onto the sidelines after just one season away. The Panthers made this year’s first hire (Frank Reich), while the Texans — running their third HC search in three years — finalized an agreement with DeMeco Ryans minutes after the Payton news broke.

Only one of last year’s top 10 longest-tenured HCs lost his job. A turbulent Colts year led to Reich being fired barely a year after he signed an extension. During a rather eventful stretch, Jim Irsay said he reluctantly extended Reich in 2021. The Colts passed on giving interim HC Jeff Saturday the full-time position, despite Irsay previously indicating he hoped the former center would transition to that role. Reich landed on his feet, and after losing Andrew Luck to a shocking retirement just before his second Colts season, the well-regarded play-caller now has another No. 1 pick (Bryce Young) to mentor.

After considering a Rams exit, Sean McVay recommitted to the team and is overseeing a reshaped roster. Andy Reid also sidestepped retirement rumors, staying on with the Chiefs after his second Super Bowl win. This will be Reid’s 25th season as an NFL head coach.

Here is how the 32 HC jobs look for the 2023 season:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2027
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019: signed extension in July 2022
  11. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  12. Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders): January 1, 2020
  13. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  14. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  15. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  16. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  17. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  18. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  19. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  20. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  21. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  22. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  23. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  24. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  25. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  26. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  27. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022
  28. Frank Reich (Carolina Panthers): January 26, 2023
  29. Sean Payton (Denver Broncos): January 31, 2023
  30. DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans): January 31, 2023
  31. Shane Steichen (Indianapolis Colts): February 14, 2023
  32. Jonathan Gannon (Arizona Cardinals): February 14, 2023