Joe Brady

Panthers QB Notes: Darnold, Mayfield, Rhule, Herbert, Stafford, Tepper, Watson

Although the Panthers are starting Baker Mayfield in Week 11, they want to see Sam Darnold in action this season. Steve Wilks said he would like to give Darnold some work, though the interim HC did not indicate that would be certain to happen this week against the Ravens. “I’m interested in winning the game. This is not pay $250 to get to play,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Joe Person (on Twitter).

Carolina used one of its injury activations to move Darnold onto its 53-man roster last week, but the former No. 3 overall pick did not see any action against the Falcons. P.J. Walker is out of the picture for the time being, after becoming the third Carolina QB this season to suffer a high ankle sprain. Mayfield will make his first start since sustaining his ankle injury in Week 9. Here is the latest from what has become one of the more complex QB situations in recent NFL history:

  • After playing hurt last season, Mayfield has not turned it around. On the radar for a potential franchise-QB deal in 2021, Mayfield is on track for free agency for the first time. The market for the former No. 1 overall pick may check in at $5-$7MM on a prove-it deal, David Newton of notes. Mayfield’s 17.7 QBR ranks last in the NFL.
  • This situation has been in flux since Cam Newton‘s 2019 foot injury. Prior to the team making the Newton-for-Teddy Bridgewater change, GM Marty Hurney and most of the Panthers’ scouts were high on Justin Herbert. But Matt Rhule did not view 2020 as the window to draft a quarterback, with Jeremy Fowler of indicating in an expansive piece the team saw a jump from No. 7 overall to No. 4 — ahead of the QB-seeking Dolphins and Chargers — as too costly. While then-Giants GM Dave Gettleman was not keen on trading down, going most of his GM career without ever doing so, the Panthers not making a push for Herbert has led to QB chaos.
  • After the Panthers determined Bridgewater — a preference of former OC Joe Brady — would be a one-and-done in Charlotte, they made a big offer for Matthew Stafford. Negotiations between new Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and Lions rookie GM Brad Holmes at the 2021 Senior Bowl led to Panthers brass leaving Mobile believing they were set to acquire Stafford, Fowler notes. It is interesting to learn how far the GMs progressed in talks, because Stafford made it known soon after he did not want to play for the Panthers. The Rams then came in late with their two-first-rounder offer, forcing the Panthers and others to look elsewhere.
  • Rhule then pushed hard for Darnold, Fowler adds, after Panthers staffers went through film sessions evaluating he, Carson Wentz and Drew Lock. The Panthers sent the Jets second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for the former No. 3 overall pick and picked up his guaranteed $18.9MM fifth-year option. Owner David Tepper begrudgingly picked up the option but became irked by the 2023 cost hanging over the franchise, per Fowler. Tepper is believed to have held up this year’s Mayfield trade talks in order to move the Browns to pick up more money on his option salary. The delay was connected to the Panthers already having Darnold’s fifth-year option to pay.
  • Tepper’s main prize during this multiyear QB odyssey, Deshaun Watson, was leery of the Panthers’ staff uncertainty, Fowler adds. All things being equal between the four finalists — Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, New Orleans — the Panthers were not believed to be Watson’s first choice. The Falcons were viewed as the team that would have landed Watson if the Browns did not make that unprecedented $230MM guarantee offer.
  • Fitterer offered support for a Mitch Trubisky signing this offseason, according to Fowler, who adds the team never engaged in extended talks with Jimmy Garoppolo‘s camp. While Garoppolo said the Panthers were in the mix, the team was believed to be leery of his injury history. Trubisky is in Year 1 of a two-year, $14.3MM deal. While Trubisky may well be available again in 2023, the Panthers — having added six draft picks from the Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson trades — will be connected to this year’s crop of QB prospects.

Matt Rhule Latest: QBs, Giants, Brady

Despite authorizing a seven-year contract to lure Matt Rhule from Baylor, Panthers owner David Tepper cut the cord this week. Tepper did so less than three years after he outmuscled the Giants for Rhule, who was believed to have preferred the Giants job to the one he ended up taking. After the Giants sent a private plane for Rhule’s January 2020 interview, Tepper upped his offer from six years to seven, according to Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). The seven-year, $62MM contract ensured Rhule never boarded that plane.

Although Rhule reached out to the Giants to see if they would match, John Mara viewed such a contract as exorbitant for a coach without much NFL experience. Still, the Giants preferred Rhule to Joe Judge that year. The Panthers, who paid Baylor a $6MM buyout fee in 2020, will not be forced to pay out Rhule’s guaranteed $40MM-plus remaining. Carolina is on the hook for Rhule’s 2022 salary, but the remaining cash will be offset by the coach’s next college gig — whenever that comes to pass. Here is the latest from the Rhule dismissal:

  • The Panthers made a quarterback splash in 2020, giving Teddy Bridgewater a three-year deal worth $63MM. Then-OC Joe Brady lobbied for Bridgewater, whom the young coach worked with during his time with the Saints, Person adds. Bridgewater was by far the best QB option during the Rhule period, with the Sam Darnold, Cam Newton 2.0 and Baker Mayfield (so far) stays producing bottom-end work.
  • Another option for Carolina would have been Justin Herbert, but Person notes the team did not want to give up the draft capital necessary to trade up for the Oregon prospect. The Panthers held the No. 7 overall pick in 2020; Herbert went sixth to the Chargers. Carolina, however, may have needed to trade up to No. 3 (Detroit) to secure Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa real estate. The Dolphins and Bolts likely were not open to moving down, and at that point, Dave Gettleman had never traded down during his time as the Giants or Panthers’ GM. The Panthers liked Herbert as a prospect, but they ended up taking Derrick Brown at 7. That certainly qualifies as a notable “what if?” for the organization.
  • After the Panthers passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in 2021, they were linked to ex-Rhule Temple recruit Kenny Pickett at No. 6 this year. But Carolina did not view Pickett as worthy of such a high pick, Person adds. GM Scott Fitterer openly said before the draft the team would have the tackle prospects rated above all the QB talents in this year’s draft. Other teams tended to agree, with the Steelers nabbing Pickett at No. 20 — without trading up — and no other QBs coming off the board until Round 3.
  • Rhule’s decision to fire Brady after going on vacation during Carolina’s 2021 bye week did not sit well with some players, per Person. Rhule encouraged players to get away that week and kept his travel plans, but Brady and QBs coach Sean Ryan stayed in town to work with the recently re-signed Newton as he learned the Panthers’ new offense. Brady’s firing leaked on the Sunday during Carolina’s bye week, when Rhule returned to Charlotte. Brady is now the Bills’ quarterbacks coach.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo said the Panthers were one of the teams that showed interest in trading for him. “Things were advancing with a couple different teams,” Garoppolo said, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch. “They were at the top of the list, I would say. One of the top couple, but I’m glad the way things worked out and I’m here.” The Panthers were among the teams skittish about Garoppolo’s salary, leading to his 49ers restructure, and his injury history was an issue with some Carolina staffers. Carolina acquired Mayfield in early July, but, adding to this franchise’s recent quarterback complications, Tepper’s desire to not overpay led to a delay that went against Rhule and Fitterer’s wishes.

Bills To Hire Joe Brady As QBs Coach

Not long after the Bears met with Joe Brady about a staff position, the Bills will be the team that lands the former Panthers offensive coordinator. Brady will sign on as Buffalo’s quarterbacks coach, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

While the Sean McDermottBrandon Beane Bills have brought in many ex-Panthers players in recent years, this Brady hire does not stem from past connections. Brady joined the Panthers as their OC well after McDermott and Beane were in Buffalo, but the former architect of LSU’s record-setting offense represents an interesting hire for a team that just lost play-caller Brian Daboll to the Giants.

Brady, 32, will team with new Buffalo OC Ken Dorsey as McDermott’s top offensive staffers. Dorsey will be in line to call plays for the Bills, a role Brady had with the Panthers for most of the past two seasons. Bringing nearly three full seasons’ worth of coordinator experience, Brady stands to help the cause as Josh Allen‘s new position coach. This will be Dorsey’s first season as a coordinator at any level.

After Brady helped Joe Burrow set a record with 60 touchdown passes for a national championship-winning Tigers team in 2019, his Panthers quarterback situations were not on that level. Brady booked five head coaching interviews in 2021, but the Panthers dropped from 21st to 30th in total offense from Brady’s first Carolina season to his second. Carolina’s Sam DarnoldCam Newton QB situation doubled as one of the league’s worst; Allen will be a considerable step up for a coach attempting to rebound after a December firing.

Bears To Interview Ex-Panthers OC Joe Brady

Fired less than a year after landing HC interviews, Joe Brady has a chance to land a job on Matt Eberflus‘ Bears staff. The former Carolina OC is interviewing for a job with Chicago, Albert Breer of tweets.

The Bears have already hired an offensive coordinator, former Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, so Brady’s interview is for another position. Considering where Brady was positioned coming out of LSU and again after his first Panthers season, when he landed five HC interviews during the 2021 hiring period, this would be an interesting move.

The Bears represent Brady’s first known connection to a team since the Panthers fired him. Despite being the point man behind Joe Burrow‘s record-setting LSU season in 2019, Brady wants to remain in the NFL.

Brady, 32, would certainly represent a notable addition to a coaching staff whose top priority will be developing Justin Fields into a franchise-caliber quarterback. Next season will be Getsy’s first NFL offensive coordinator job, but he was Mississippi State’s OC in 2018. Brady has three seasons of OC experience.

Matt Rhule fired Brady during the Panthers’ December bye week, with the move coming amid a quarterback crisis that led to Rhule’s job being in jeopardy by season’s end. The Panthers dropped from 21st to 30th in total offense last season, with Sam Darnold and Cam Newton‘s struggles playing the main role in the decline.

Joe Brady Wants To Stay In NFL

After receiving interest for head coaching jobs just after the 2020-21 NFL season ended, former Panthers’ offensive coordinator Joe Brady is not quite ready to return to the college coaching ranks. Despite some reports linking Joe Brady to the University of Miami as a potential offensive coordinator on new head coach Mario Cristobal’s staff, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Brady has heard from multiple NFL teams and the expectation is that he will stay in the league next season.

Brady found success in college football in his lone season at LSU as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Brady and then-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow were two individuals highly regarded as contributors to the school’s 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship. The success quickly vaulted Brady into coaching opportunities as, three days after the Championship win, Brady accepted the offensive coordinator job under incoming head coach of the Panthers Matt Rhule.

In Brady’s first season as the lone offensive play caller, Carolina’s offense ranked 24th in the NFL in scoring and 21st in yards, utilizing Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and leaning on Mike Davis at running back with star Christian McCaffrey sidelined for all but three games. Through 13 weeks of the 2021 NFL season, the Panthers’ offense ranked 24th in points per game and 29th in yards yards per game. The team has struggled to find consistency at quarterback with trade acquisition Sam Darnold failing to take a firm hold of the reins of the offense and Cam Newton not providing the desired boost after signing with his former team in November. The running game has still seen Christian McCaffrey miss time and has turned to rookie fourth-round pick Chuba Hubbard in his absence.

Rhule didn’t specify any reasons for firing Brady only claiming it was best for the team moving forward, so it’s understandable that some NFL teams still see potential in hiring the young offensive mind. College football jobs have been filling quickly since the end of their regular season, so Brady’s focus on the NFL indicates he probably has some pretty strong leads on a new job.

Panthers Plan To Give HC Matt Rhule Another Year

Despite the Panthers’ underwhelming record in one-plus season under Matt Rhule, it sounds like the head coach will get another year to figure it all out. Per ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Panthers owner David Tepper intends to keep Rhule around for a third season. Of course, the writer cautions that plenty could change over the next five weeks.

The Panthers are 5-7 on the year, giving Rhule a combined record of 10-18 across the last two seasons. Things haven’t gone according to plan for Rhule, but it sounds like the organization will give him some additional time to figure it out. The Panthers have dealt with inconsistent QB play over the past two years, and the team was hit hard by injuries in 2021 (including an injury to their best player, Christian McCaffrey). NFL teams took notice of Baylor’s quick turnaround from the Art Briles era when Rhule was at the helm, and it sounds like the Panthers are still hoping their HC can guide a similar revival in Carolina.

While Rhule will likely get a commitment for the 2022 season, don’t be surprised if he’s given an extremely short leash. Graziano believes the HC will be one of the major names on the “hot seat” heading into the 2022 campaign.

Meanwhile, Graziano writes that the recent dismissal of offensive coordinator Joe Brady wasn’t all that surprising. The two coaches “didn’t have the best relationship,” and if you add in Carolina’s sputtering offense, the writing was clearly on the wall.

Panthers Fire OC Joe Brady

The Panthers have fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady, the team announced. Senior offensive assistant Jeff Nixon, along with the rest of the offensive coaching staff, will take over Brady’s duties for the remainder of the season.

Brady spent two seasons as an offensive assistant for the Saints from 2017-18 and truly made a name for himself as the passing game coordinator for LSU in the Tigers’ record-setting 2019 season that featured otherworldly performances from future first-round draft picks like quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. That afforded him the opportunity to join Matt Rhule‘s first staff in Carolina in 2020.

The Panthers finished in the bottom half of the league last season in terms of total offense, though subpar QB play and a three-game season from star running back Christian McCaffrey certainly played a role in that. NFL clubs were still high on Brady’s ability, as he received five interviews for head coaching positions in this year’s cycle. As Albert Breer of tweets, Brady interviewed well, and a number of execs involved in those interviews believed he was a lock for an HC gig in 2022.

Unfortunately, Carolina suffered more of the same problems this year. McCaffrey is now out for the season after having played seven games, and an injury to starting quarterback Sam Darnold also helped to derail the Panthers’ once-promising season. A four-game losing streak earlier this year led some to believe that Brady would be stripped of his play-calling duties, and while that did not happen, Brady is now out of a job completely.

This year, the Panthers have slipped to 28th in total offense, and Brady’s creative mind has not been enough to consistently overcome what opposing defensive coordinators have thrown at him. He is still only 32 years old, but his meteoric rise has come to an abrupt halt, and he may have to rebuild his stock back at the college level.

Rhule said, “I met with Joe this morning and informed him that I have decided to make a change. I’m very grateful to him for his time and effort in helping us get established over this past year and a half.”

Panthers To Stick With Joe Brady As Play Caller

The Panthers managed just three points in Sunday’s loss to the Giants, dropping them to 3-4 on the year. Clearly, something has to change, but head coach Matt Rhule says that he has no plans to take play-calling duties away from offensive coordinator Joe Brady (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic). 

[RELATED: Panthers, Dolphins Favorites To Land Watson?]

Brady’s offense looked promising early on, thanks in part to the play of Sam Darnold. Unfortunately, the former Jets quarterback has sputtered in recent weeks He was benched in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, though Rhule told reporters that Darnold will “be our quarterback next week.” There’s no guarantee that Darnold will be the QB after the trade deadline, however. The Panthers are said to be in pursuit of Deshaun Watson and they could potentially outbid the Dolphins.

Brady’s offense would be in better shape with Christian McCaffrey, but he’s still on IR with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, despite all the hiccups, Brady remains a rumored candidate for the LSU vacancy.

I didn’t really have any thoughts on it,” Brady said recently (via Sports Illustrated). “I had a great experience in my time there but I was way more concerned with our performance this past Sunday and trying to find ways to improve this Sunday. All of those things, from a coaching perspective, are things that I don’t really pay a lot of attention to…I’ve got to do a better job of being the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and that’s all I’m really concerned about right now.”

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-27-21 (7:05pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Interview Joe Brady

The Eagles have interviewed Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady for their head coaching job, as Ian Rapoport of tweets. Brady has interviewed for nearly every opening this circuit and could be on the verge of his first HC gig.

[RELATED: 2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker]

The Falcons, Texans, Chargers, and Jets have also chatted with the 31-year-old rising star. Brady made a name for himself in 2019 when he served as LSU’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, guiding Joe Burrows and Justin Jefferson to a record-breaking offensive campaign. In January of 2020, the Panthers called him up to the pros.

Brady’s Panthers offense did not impress, but that was largely due to injuries. Despite Teddy Bridgewater’s struggles and Christian McCaffrey’s injuries, the Panthers still got 1,000+ yards out of D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and Mike Davis. The Birds, who are revamping their offense around Jalen Hurts, could ask Brady to lead the way.

Here’s a look at the Eagles’ other candidates, via PFR’s tracker: