Scott Fitterer

Panthers Fire GM Scott Fitterer

In a move which comes as little surprise, the Panthers have moved on from general manager Scott Fitterer. His three-year run in Charlotte is now over, and the team’s offseason will include a search for replacements both on the sidelines and in the front office.

“As we move forward with the new direction for our franchise, I have made the decision that Scott Fitterer will no longer serve as our general manager,” a statement from owner David Tepper reads. “I appreciate Scott’s efforts and wish the best for him and his family.” 

A report from last month pointed to Fitterer being shown the door to coincide with yet another search for a new head coach. The longtime Seahawks exec had received a vote of confidence in the wake of Matt Rhule being let go, but a repeat on that front will not take place. The Panthers now join the Chargers and Raiders as teams with GM openings.

After a 5-12 campaign in his 2021 Carolina debut, Fitterer has attempted to find a long-term answer for the franchise at the quarterback position. That included the trade acquisition of Baker Mayfield last summer. The former No. 1 pick struggled mightily in Charlotte, however, and he was gone by the time the season came to an end. Running back Christian McCaffrey had been dealt away by the end of the 7-10 campaign, leaving the Panthers in need of an organizational reset.

That effort was built in large part on the blockbuster move to acquire the top pick in the 2023 draft from the Bears. The Panthers sent Chicago a package including two first-round selections, two second-rounders and wideout D.J. Moore to move to the top of the draft board. That maneuver resulted in Bryce Young being selected, something which came about after an internal decision-making process which has been the subject of considerable speculation and scrutiny.

As ex-head coach Frank Reich has made clear, Tepper played a central role in the decision to select Young over other signal-callers available (namely C.J. Stroud). Young’s struggles led to a very poor offensive showing, something which informed Reich’s dismissal after only 11 games at the helm. Regardless of how much weight his voice carried in the Young selectin, Fitterer has drawn criticism for authorizing the trade and for failing to insulate Young with an adequate offensive line in his rookie year.

Overall, the Panthers posted a 14-37 record during Fitterer’s run. That represents the league’s worst mark over that span, and with this year’s top pick belonging to the Bears, the path to contending status will be a difficult one for his replacement to navigate. Among the top priorities for the new GM will be working out the future for Pro Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns. The former first-rounder is due to reach free agency this offseason, and either a franchise tag or a long-term deal will need to be in place to keep him in Charlotte for 2024 and beyond. Talks on an extension have not produced much traction to date, but a new face at the negotiating table could bring about progress.

While interim head coach Chris Tabor will be replaced over the coming weeks, likely by an outside candidate, the same may not be true for Fitterer’s successor. Assistant GM Dan Morgan is liked within the organization, and he has a chance to be promoted to the full-time role; ESPN’s David Newton reports Morgan will oversee personnel moves for now. Given Tepper’s less-than-stellar reputation (particularly with respect to meddling), it will be interesting to see how much of a market this vacancy generates.

2024 marks the first time in Tepper’s tenure that the Panthers have a simultaneous opening at the head coach and general manager positions. Needless to say, the coming weeks will therefore have a profound impact on the short- and long-term direction of the franchise as a rebound from this year’s 2-15 slate is sought out.

Latest On Panthers’ Offseason Plans

The Panthers already have a head coaching vacancy, and there’s an expectation that he’ll soon have an opening at general manager. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like Panthers owner David Tepper isn’t wasting any time preparing for his next big hires.

[RELATED: Panthers Likely To Fire GM Scott Fitterer]

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Tepper has been working with consulting firm Sportsology, which is led by former Chelsea FC executive Mike Forde. As Joe Person of The Athletic notes, Forde recently helped Tepper with his Charlotte FC coaching search, and the executive has also worked with the Rams, 49ers, and Falcons. For what it’s worth, Tepper didn’t rely on a consulting firm when he hired Matt Rhule and Frank Reich.

While Scott Fitterer sounds like he’s at risk of losing his job, the general manager’s replacement could already be in the building. Per Schefter, Panthers assistant GM Dan Morgan has “support within the organization” to take over the full-time gig. There’s also a chance Fitterer sticks around the organization…at least temporarily. Dianna Russini of The Athletic writes that the GM could “help with some of the transition” to a new head coach.

Of course, whoever takes over at GM will face a tough task of turning around the franchise. The Panthers have already traded their first-round pick (which ultimately came in at No. 1) to the Bears in order to draft Bryce Young, who struggled throughout his rookie campaign. With limited draft resources and a roster that’s lacking top-end talent, the next GM will surely require a multi-year rebuild to get the Panthers back on track.

As for the replacement for the ousted Reich, Russini writes that Tepper is expected to “try again” to hire Ben Johnson. The Lions offensive coordinator is expected to be a popular name on the coaching circuit, just as he was last offseason. In fact, Johnson was at one time considered the front runner for the Panthers job before he dropped out of the race to stay in Detroit.

Panthers Likely To Fire GM Scott Fitterer; Team Open To Retaining DC Ejiro Evero

There will likely be more GM openings compared to the 2023 cycle. After the Raiders and Chargers fired their respective GMs in-season, the Commanders are expected to follow suit after the season. Given the turmoil in Carolina, it should also be viewed as likely the Panthers clean house.

Scott Fitterer is probably in his final weeks on the job in Carolina, with The Athletic’s Joe Person indicating many around the league point to the third-year GM being canned soon (subscription required). While Fitterer is well liked around the league, the Panthers have struggled during his tenure. Considering how quick David Tepper was to pull the plug on Frank Reich, Fitterer’s 2024 ouster has been rumored for a bit.

The longtime Seahawks exec loomed as a GM candidate for a stretch before his 2021 hire, and he signed on to work alongside Matt Rhule. The latter ran the show in Carolina during his three-year HC tenure, but Fitterer’s solo run has produced roster fireworks. The Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey shortly after Rhule’s firing, and they turned down a monster Rams offer (two first-round picks and a third-rounder) for Brian Burns. Bears negotiations in the winter included Burns and Derrick Brown, but Fitterer and Ryan Poles came to an agreement on a deal that sent D.J. Moore and a host of draft picks to Chicago for the No. 1 overall slot.

Tepper has widely been viewed as leading the charge for Bryce Young, but that swap has burned the Panthers early. Because of Carolina’s 2-12 record, Chicago is close to obtaining the No. 1 pick for a second straight year. It looks like Fitterer will pay the price. The Panthers sport a .292 win percentage since 2021, which matches the Bears for the NFL’s lowest during that span. The next Panthers power structure will be tasked with rebuilding Young, who is believed to have suffered from a complicated offensive approach built on combining Reich and OC Thomas Brown‘s visions.

As the Panthers remain connected to an offense-oriented coach — one who will be OK working with Tepper given the run the sixth-year owner is on — they look to be considering pairing that to-be-determined leader with DC Ejiro Evero. The Panthers are intrigued by the idea of Evero staying and working alongside the team’s next HC, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes.

A sought-after HC candidate this offseason, Evero ended up as the Panthers’ DC after the Broncos let him out of his DC contract. Evero interviewed for the Vikings and Panthers’ DC jobs, after meeting with Carolina about the HC job that went to Reich. Bolstering his reputation on Nathaniel Hackett‘s sinking Broncos ship last year, Evero became the rare in-demand coordinator from a 5-12 team. The Broncos also expressed interest in keeping Evero to team with Sean Payton, but the sides determined it was not a fit. Denver rehired Vance Joseph, while Evero’s stock has not dropped much despite Carolina’s 2023 futility.

A wide disparity exists between the Panthers’ points and yardage rankings on defense; Carolina ranks 29th in scoring defense but third in yards yielded. The Panthers’ pass defense also ranks third. DVOA leans toward the scoring number as more indicative of the defense’s true performance; Carolina’s defense sits 27th here. The Panthers have, however, played much of this season without top corner Jaycee Horn and linebacker stalwart Shaq Thompson.

It will be interesting to see if Tepper would consider forcing Evero upon his new HC. That seems like a stretch, considering the team’s unraveling after Steve Wilks‘ admirable interim effort and the owner’s own reputation likely to make a hire more difficult this year. But this scenario does look to be in play. If so, Evero would be on the verge of developing an interesting reputation for garnering praise despite being a DC for bad teams.

NFC South Notes: Fitterer, Mayfield, Saints

With the Panthers bottoming out and David Tepper firing another head coach, it has seemed likely the team will move on from its GM as well. Given Tepper’s comments, it is worth wondering how much power Scott Fitterer has held since Matt Rhule‘s October 2022 firing. But Fitterer is clearly on a hot seat in Carolina. Following Frank Reich‘s ouster, the team should be expected to move on from its third-year GM, per the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. Fitterer ran point on the decision to reject the Rams’ two-first-rounder offer for Brian Burns before the 2022 trade deadline, and his negotiations with Ryan Poles led to the March blockbuster for the Bryce Young draft slot.

Of course, it is widely believed Tepper drove the Panthers’ effort to select Young first overall. That process will lead to the Bears holding the Panthers’ 2024 first-round pick, which currently checks in at No. 1 overall. Fitterer hot-seat rumors surfaced before Reich’s firing, and although a November report pointed to Tepper keeping his GM around to help attract Lions OC Ben Johnson shed light on a possible lifeline for the ex-Seahawks exec, a 2024 housecleaning seems likelier given the events of 2023.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Baker Mayfield signed a one-year, $4MM Buccaneers deal in March, earning a starting job despite a rough 2022. Incentives exist in the sixth-year quarterback’s contract, and Fox Sports’ Greg Auman notes he has cashed in on some of those already. Mayfield has collected $500K by staying in the Bucs’ lineup, with Auman noting the team included $250K bumps for hitting the 55%, 65%, 75% and 85% snap rates. Mayfield staying healthy the rest of the way would lead to him adding $1MM in incentives. Additionally, Auman indicates a bonus exists for a Bucs playoff win. Although the Bucs are 6-7, they currently hold the NFC West tiebreaker. Mayfield is interested in staying with the Bucs beyond this season, though no known extension talks have occurred yet.
  • One of Mayfield’s current division rivals has not enjoyed a healthy season. Derek Carr has sustained two concussions and dealt with shoulder trouble, but the Saints‘ big-ticket QB addition has not missed a start. In addition to the head and shoulder issues, Carr has sustained three rib fractures this year, per’s Brooke Kirchhofer. In 10 seasons, Carr has only missed three career games due to injury. But his playing hurt has affected the Saints this season. While Carr’s completion percentage is up significantly from 2022, his QBR has dropped. Given a four-year, $150MM contract that includes $70MM fully guaranteed, Carr ranks 23rd in QBR through 13 games.
  • Michael Thomas has once again seen an injury take him out of New Orleans’ equation. The eighth-year wide receiver, who has dealt with persistent injury issues during the 2020s, is on IR with a knee injury. The former All-Pro will be eligible to be activated in Week 16, but’s Nick Underhill doubts he comes back until at least the Saints’ regular-season finale. Should that game not mean anything for the team, Thomas would have little incentive to return. The 30-year-old pass catcher’s 10 games this season are his most since 2019, but he has now missed 43 games since the 2020 season.
  • As Carr dealt with the first of his 2023 injuries, New Orleans attempted to sign a player off Denver’s practice squad. The Saints tried to add Ben DiNucci off the Broncos’ P-squad in September, per the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson. DiNucci, who returned to the NFL after an XFL run, opted to stay where he was for continuity purposes. After DiNucci’s decision, the Saints added Jake Luton to their 53-man roster instead. DiNucci said the Broncos are expected to make up the difference he would have made as part of the Saints’ active roster. Denver elevated DiNucci in Week 13, allowing him to pick up a $48K game check. Doing so two more times would match the total DiNucci would have earned while on the Saints’ 53-man roster for the mandated three weeks.

Latest On Panthers’ Organizational Dysfunction

The firing of former Panthers head coach Frank Reich was not a spur of the moment decision. Team owner David Tepper had been forming the basis for this decision for weeks before finally pulling the trigger. Joseph Person and Dianna Russini spoke with several players and staff within the organization, some under the guise of anonymity, about the state of the organization and revealed a number of headline-worthy comments.

First off was the confirmation of rumors that the team’s poor offensive performance contributed heavily to Reich’s exit. In addition to serving as head coach, Reich also called offensive plays for Carolina. He ceded play-calling duties to first year offensive coordinator Thomas Brown for three games before retaking the responsibility, but nothing seemed to help their struggling rookie quarterback, Bryce Young, and Reich’s decision to take back that role reportedly caused some division within the staff.

In 11 starts so far this year, Young is averaging fewer than 200 passing yards per game. and has thrown only nine touchdowns to nine interceptions. The offense has struggled as a whole, ranking 29th in points scored and 30th in yards gained. Their struggles have been fairly balanced with the team ranking 30th in passing yards and 26th in rushing.

One take, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, is that the Panthers’ attack was simply too complicated for the rookie passer. Reich brought in assistant coaches from many backgrounds. When he was let go, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley were also let go, due to their heavy influence on the offense. Between Reich’s plan from his Philadelphia days, Brown’s scheme from Los Angeles, and the input from McCown and Staley, there were simply too many cooks in the kitchen. The plan post-Reich has been to streamline the offense in order to make it a bit more digestible for Young.

Additionally, there seemed to be a disconnect within the coaching staff. As we recently reported, there were seemingly attempts within the coaching staff to get Young benched in favor of a veteran like backup quarterback Andy Dalton. Such attempts reportedly never reached Reich or general manager Scott Fitterer. This may have been a result of several Panthers staffers communicating directly with Tepper behind Reich’s back. With the writing on the wall for Reich, several assistants reportedly went into self-preservation mode in an attempt to not go down with the captain of the ship.

Tepper really attempted to be hands-on this season. After firing Matt Rhule, Tepper sold a thorough coaching search (despite some rumors pointing to a foregone conclusion when Carolina hired Reich’s daughter hours after the 2022 season ended). After “eventually” landing on Reich, Tepper reportedly implored his new head coach to hire assistants outside of his normal coaching circle, suggesting that Reich retain special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and offensive line coach James Campen. Tepper even instructed Reich to fix Young’s footwork, though this may have been prompted by another coach or even Fitterer.

With Reich in the past, there have been several names rumored to be in contention to replace him. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is a popular pick after he was heavily considered in the offseason before withdrawing his name from consideration to stay in Detroit. But Carolina isn’t necessarily selling out for Johnson. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, sources have the Panthers on the lookout for a “young offensive coach” to replace Reich.

Johnson does fit that mold at the age of 37, but Eagles 36-year-old offensive coordinator Brian Johnson will be popular this offseason, as well. Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, at 36 years old, has already shown what he can do with the development of a rookie quarterback after working with both Brock Purdy in 2022 and C.J. Stroud this year, though he remains close to DeMeco Ryans, who brought him over from San Francisco. Lastly, Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith is a bit older at 42 years old but is still a rising name in the NFL after Miami’s offensive development in the past two years.

While they might not love what’s been put on the field thus far, the Panthers also still have Brown on the offensive staff after he was considered a head coaching candidate in the offseason. Brown was also considered an up-and-coming offensive mind coming out of Los Angeles last year. Regardless, Tepper will need to really do his homework this time around if he wants to author a strong reply to this year’s dismal performance.

Panthers Likely To Make Aggressive Ben Johnson Pursuit; Team Considered Benching Bryce Young?

The Panthers made a push to hire Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson this offseason, but the rising play-caller withdrew his name from consideration for that job or other HC positions. Despite Johnson turning down the Panthers in January, the team will be prepared to see if it can change the second-year OC’s mind.

Rumored to once again be targeting a coach with an offensive background, the Panthers will have their sights set on Johnson. Following the quick Frank Reich ouster, the Panthers look to be more interested in Johnson than they were earlier this year, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes.

Some around the NFL are convinced David Tepper will up the ante for the Detroit OC, La Canfora adds. Tepper’s increasingly polarizing reputation aside, the Panthers owner’s net worth sits behind only the Walton family in Denver among. Tepper made the comment about no salary cap being in place for coaches this offseason, when he added Ejiro Evero, Thomas Brown, Jim Caldwell, Josh McCown and Dom Capers to Reich’s staff.

But Johnson is on track to be a coveted commodity on the 2024 HC carousel. The Chargers have been linked to him as well, and he is expected to be interested in coaching Justin Herbert — a position expected to become available with Brandon Staley struggling in his third season — in 2024. Tepper’s reputation for impulsive decisions and meddling is also expected to make this search more complicated than those to replace Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule.

Tepper’s willingness to spend for coaches, as evidenced by Rhule’s seven-year deal worth $62MM, could certainly matter to a point. And a GM informed La Canfora the owner may be willing to keep GM Scott Fitterer on to help lure Johnson to Charlotte. Viewed as a GM not insistent on playing the lead role in personnel, Fitterer — who indeed operated as second-in-command during Rhule’s run — does not have experience working with Johnson. The latter has been with the Lions since 2019; he spent the previous seven years with the Dolphins.

It would certainly be interesting for the Panthers to keep a GM on staff in hopes he can lure a promising HC to town, and it would not exactly reflect well on the team’s situation for Johnson to turn the club down twice. Tepper hired Fitterer to work alongside Rhule, but a report last month suggested he joined Reich on the hot seat. With the Panthers starting 1-11, Fitterer receiving a fourth season in the GM chair might be a tough sell. But the Panthers are in an unusual spot, seeing their owner become the center of attention during this run of inconsistency on the sideline and at the quarterback position.

On the latter front, Bryce Young has continued to struggle, doing so as No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud has separated himself in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. Tepper attempted to insist the Panthers were in full agreement regarding Young over Stroud, but the 5-foot-10 passer did not receive a good draw in Year 1. The Panthers have lost both starting guards for the season, and free agency additions Miles Sanders and Hayden Hurst — each securing the most guaranteed money at their respective positions this offseason — have not moved the needle much. These signings, of course, came after the Panthers included longtime No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Moore in the trade for the No. 1 pick.

Young’s rookie-year issues were evident early to some on staff, as The Athletic’s Dianna Russini adds multiple coaches on staff wanted to bench the former Heisman winner by Week 5 (subscription required). Viewing Young as requiring more coaching before he could be relied upon as a weekly starter, these coaches were ultimately overruled by a Panthers vision that placed a higher priority on long-term Young development rather than potential 2023 wins with Andy Dalton at the helm. The Panthers fired both McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley. Parks Frazier, who rose from assistant Colts QBs coach to offensive coordinator in the wake of Reich’s 2022 firing, is now coaching the Panthers’ QBs, the Charlotte Observer’s Mike Kaye tweets.

It is not known if McCown and Staley backed a Young benching, but Tepper has attempted to drive home the notion the staff was in agreement on the Alabama prospect. Reich was connected to being pro-Stroud early in the pre-draft process, though he said post-draft he was in alignment with Panthers scouts on Young. The Panthers remain hopeful regarding Young’s development, with one team staffer (via Russini) citing the shortcomings of the team’s offensive pieces around him.

Circling back to Reich, La Canfora offers one of the reasons Tepper cut the cord so early was the veteran coach’s lower-key demeanor. Reich, 61, is not known as an intense leader. Reich’s measured approach came up against two outspoken owners during his HC career, with Jim Irsay becoming increasingly involved as the former Super Bowl-winning OC’s Colts run progressed. Reich signed a four-year contract. While Rhule’s Nebraska contract moved the Panthers off the hook for much of the money remaining on his NFL contract, via offset language, Reich said he is likely headed toward retirement. In that event, the Panthers will be paying their former HC through 2026.

Latest On Panthers’ HC, GM Positions

Consistent with a report that surfaced in the immediate aftermath of head coach Frank Reich‘s dismissal, Adam Schefter of says that the Panthers will be targeting an offensive-minded coach when they conduct a search for Reich’s full-time replacement this offseason. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson — who had emerged as the frontrunner for the Carolina HC post during the 2023 hiring cycle before he withdrew his name from consideration — is likely to be on owner David Tepper‘s short list once again, per Schefter. Ditto Eagles OC Brian Johnson.

Schefter’s ESPN colleague, Dan Graziano, agrees that Tepper’s search will lean towards a coach with an offensive background given the franchise’s investment in Bryce Young (subscription required). However, both Graziano and fellow ESPN scribe Jeremy Fowler believe that a candidate’s leadership abilities could be more critical than their offensive acumen. After all, new Texans HC DeMeco Ryans is a defensive-oriented coach, but his club — guided by rookie QB C.J. Stroud — boasts one of the league’s most prolific offenses. Likewise, the defensive-minded Steve Wilks led the Panthers to a 6-6 finish as interim head coach in 2022, but Tepper elected to move on from Wilks and chose not to aggressively pursue Ryans.

Regardless of which qualities Tepper prioritizes in the upcoming cycle, it remains to be seen if he will be able to land his top choice, thanks to his growing reputation as an impatient and meddlesome owner. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Tepper’s comments at a press conference in the wake of Reich’s firing will not help his cause.

During that presser, Tepper noted that the decision to select Young over Stroud in the 2023 draft was unanimous, though Florio finds that hard to believe. That is not because he is looking at the matter through a revisionist lens skewed by the two players’ performances in their rookie campaigns, but rather because the sheer number of people involved in such a franchise-defining choice is almost guaranteed to generate contrasting viewpoints. So even though Tepper says the call was unanimous, Florio believes the reality is that any Stroud supporters realized that Tepper preferred Young and ultimately chose to side with their employer.

Indeed, while all owners natually have the power to veto any decisions made by their staff, Tepper drove that point home when reporters asked him about the Young-Stroud issue.

“The process was done the way the process was done,” Tepper said. “And again, even though if there was a process with five people in the room and the way the votes came in it was Frank was the first choice [as head coach], I always could veto that choice. And even if [it[ was Bryce [as the first overall pick] and the votes came in unanimously in this particular case, I could have vetoed that choice.”

In Florio’s view, the fact that Tepper openly avowed that he wields veto power even if there is unanimity among his football staff is telling. It also underscores his willingness to meddle, which could drive away candidates that might otherwise be interested in the Carolina HC gig. Dianna Russini of The Athletic, who says that Stroud’s success was a key factor in Tepper’s decision to fire Reich, also reports that some members of the organization have been texting Ben Johnson to tell him how “complicated” it is to work for the Panthers at the moment (subscription required).

Another high-profile target is Jim Harbaugh, but as Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda recently observed, Tepper’s propensity to drive decision-making obviously would not be appealing to a candidate like Harbaugh, who will likely want a high degree of autonomy over football operations. Plus, as a source told Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, “[Harbaugh’s] just as mercurial as Tepper. You want a coach that way, too?”

That said, other sources have told Jones that Harbaugh is a legitimate candidate for the job. While Harbaugh and Tepper did speak about the position in late December 2022/early January 2023, that conversation did not evolve into an interview. According to Jones, Tepper — who had recently fired Matt Rhule — did not want another coach who ran the entire football operation, but it sounds as if he may be more amenable to a Harbaugh hire this time around. And no matter how Tepper may be perceived around the league, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports makes it clear that there will be plenty of coaches who will want the Panthers’ post (video link).

Of course, there may be a new voice in Tepper’s ear when the calendar flips to 2024. GM Scott Fitterer is reportedly on the hot seat, and while Schefter reports that Carolina may prefer to retain him, he has been given no assurances about his future with the club.

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 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.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

The latest NFL general manager hiring cycle only produced two changes, but each took over for an executive who appeared in good standing at this point last year.

Steve Keim had held his Cardinals GM post since January 2013, and the Cardinals gave both he and Kliff Kingsbury extensions — deals that ran through 2027 — in March of last year. Arizona has since rebooted, moving on from both Keim and Kingsbury. Keim took a leave of absence late last season, and the Cardinals replaced him with ex-Titans exec Monti Ossenfort.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches]

As the Cardinals poached one of the Titans’ top front office lieutenants, Tennessee went with an NFC West staffer to replace Jon Robinson. The move to add 49ers FO bastion Ran Carthon also came less than a year after the Titans reached extension agreements with both Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel. But controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk canned Robinson — in place as GM since January 2016 — before last season ended. Adams Strunk cited player unavailability and roster quality among the reasons she chose to move on despite having extended Robinson through the 2027 draft months earlier. The Titans are now pairing Vrabel and Carthon.

The Bills reached an extension agreement with GM Brandon Beane two weeks ago. Hired shortly after the team gave Sean McDermott the HC keys, Beane has helped the Bills to five playoff berths in six seasons. Beane’s deal keeps him signed through 2027. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has hit the 10-year mark leading that front office, while this year also marks the 10th offseason of Buccaneers honcho Jason Licht‘s tenure running the NFC South team. Although Jim Irsay fired Frank Reich and later admitted he reluctantly extended his former HC in 2021, the increasingly active Colts owner has expressed confidence in Chris Ballard.

Here is how the NFL’s GM landscape looks going into the 2023 season:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2022
  8. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  9. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  10. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  11. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  12. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  13. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  14. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  15. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018; agreed to extension in 2022
  16. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  17. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  18. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  19. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  20. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  21. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  22. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  23. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  24. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  25. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  26. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  27. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  28. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  29. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  30. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022
  31. Monti Ossenfort (Arizona Cardinals): January 16, 2023
  32. Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans): January 17, 2023


  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018