The Carolina Panthers are hiring Frank Reich as their next head coach, according to multiple reports. Panthers owner David Tepper cast a wide net while searching for Carolina’s next coach. Interim coach Steve Wilks and Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore were among the finalists. Tepper ultimately opted for veteran leadership from outside the organization. Reich is a good choice for the Panthers.
Reich is an experienced leader that should stabilize the franchise following the overdue departure of Matt Rhule. The Indianapolis Colts fired Reich mid-season after compiling a 3-5-1 record. The Colts got significantly worse following Reich’s departure, finishing the campaign 4-12-1 under interim head coach Jeff Saturday. In four-and-a-half seasons as Indianapolis’ head coach, Reich compiled a record of 40-33-1. Reich deserves this second opportunity he’s landing in Carolina.
The first order of business for Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer will be to identify a franchise quarterback. It’s an issue that plagued Reich throughout his tenure in Indianapolis. Miraculously, Reich never entered a campaign with the same starting quarterback from the previous season. Colts general manager Chris Ballard swapped veteran quarterback after veteran quarterback. From Philip Rivers to Matt Ryan, Reich and the Colts never got the quarterback position right.
Reich was somewhat culpable for the Colts’ quarterback issues. He signed off on acquiring Carson Wentz after finding success as his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. The Wentz experience went horribly in Indianapolis, and the Colts luckily abandoned ship one year into their experiment.
While Reich helped oversee multiple quarterback acquisitions in Indianapolis, he never received an opportunity to draft a quarterback of his choosing. Ballard was well-known to peruse the veteran QB market. Things will be different in Carolina.
The Panthers currently own the No. 9 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. That places them within striking distance to draft either Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, or Will Levis. Reich and the Panthers will do extensive research on this year’s quarterback class. Reich, a former quarterback himself, understands that his tenure in Carolina will be decided by the decisions they make at quarterback. It can’t be the same revolving door it was in Indianapolis.
The Panthers are a candidate to execute an aggressive trade-up into the top five or six to draft a quarterback. In-house scout Damian Parson has the Panthers trading up to No. 6 overall in order to draft Stroud in our latest NFL mock draft.
Reich and the Panthers will have a new starting quarterback in 2023. Carolina’s Baker Mayfield experiment ended midseason. Sam Darnold is an unrestricted free agent and isn’t expected back. For the first time in Reich’s coaching career, he’ll receive an opportunity to mold a rookie quarterback.
There’s a fun anecdote worth acknowledging. Reich actually threw the first touchdown in Panthers franchise history back in 1995. Reich started the first three games of Carolina’s inaugural season.
Reich is inheriting a quality defense that features standout performers such as Brian Burns, Jaycee Horn, and Derrick Brown to name a few. Reich will be tasked with hiring a defensive coordinator. Interim coach Wilks was Carolina’s defensive play-caller but is now expected to move on. Wilks is understandably disappointed after being passed over for Reich despite leading the Panthers to a respectable 6-6 record down the stretch.
Chicago Bears defensive backs coach James Rowe could be a candidate in Carolina should Reich deem him ready to take the next step. Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams could be another intriguing option. Reich could attempt to entice Williams by giving him an assistant head coach title or simply by allowing him to call his own defense. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, Reich, Rowe, and Williams all worked together in Indianapolis.
The Panthers made a sound decision in hiring Reich. What happens next largely depends on Carolina’s quarterbacking plans. Reich better get the quarterback right, because third opportunities are extremely rare.
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