Frank Reich Fired - Where Next For The Carolina Panthers

By Lee Wakefield

With the news that the Carolina Panthers have parted ways with head coach Frank Reich, Lee Wakefield looks at the current health of the franchise under owner David Tepper, and the problems facing the team moving forward:

A Faulty Masterplan

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With the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers select… Bryce Young, quarterback, Alabama.

The big swing was swung on that April evening in Kansas City. The next iteration of the Panthers, led by owner Dave Tepper, General Manager Scott Fitterer and now-fired, now former Head Coach, Frank Reich.

Tepper has had three Head Coaches since he bought the Panthers; Ron Rivera, Matt Rhule and Frank Reich. The Reich era was supposed to be one where the team brought together an All-Star group of coaches, with the hires of Offensive Coordinator Thomas Brown and highly-sought after Defensive Coordinator, Ejero Evero, As well as bringing in experienced coaching assistants, such as Dom Capers and Jim Caldwell.

Tepper thought that he would be able to play the system, to exploit the fact that there’s no salary cap on coaching staff. On paper it sounded like a great idea! So much so, in our very own staff preseason predictions, your humble writer thought that the Panthers would win the NFC South.

With this firing a new cycle will begin, at first in interim, to get the team across the finishing line, ready to lick its wounds. And then a more permanent hire will be made and the next era will begin… The David Tepper wheel of fortune will spin once again.

If his past achievements are anything to go by, it’s time to hold on to your hats in Carolina.

More Short Term Pain Inevitable

With one win on the board as I write this on November 27th and Frank Reich fired earlier today, nothing seems further from reality than that prediction.

To make things worse, the Interim Head Coach that the Panthers’ brain trust has appointed isn’t either of the highly-regarded coordinators. It isn’t even either of those highly-experienced senior coaching assistants. It is Special Teams Coordinator, Chris Tabor. Please, don’t get my intentions confused here, this isn’t a shot at Tabor. It is more another piece of evidence in the column that makes me ask,

What are the Panthers doing, and where do they go from here?

First off, Reich hasn’t covered himself in glory here. He has been fired before the end of his first season for the second year in a row.

Panthers fans complain about the fit, the play-calling and the scheme, and to be honest don’t appear to be too surprised by the move.

But the immediate future looks bleak.

Bryce Young, hasn’t looked ready to play in the NFL – Another case of landing spots being so crucial to a rookie’s development. He’s not been well protected by his coaches in the way they’ve constructed or called the offense. The offensive line has been a shambles, which has included 2022’s first rounder, Ikem Ekwonu, not taking the steps forward than Carolina probably banked on. And the cherry on top of this sorry mess, is that Young has barely had anyone of NFL calibre to throw the ball to, because the team traded D.J. Moore to Chicago as part of the deal that gave the Panthers the first overall pick.

Talk about having the deck stacked against you!

That trade is also a huge issue for the team moving forward.

A New Blueprint

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How can the Panthers look to attract a high-quality Head Coach? Not only with all of the issues above, but no first round pick in 2024 and no second round pick in 2025. Plus, Carolina will end the season with a bunch of coaches who are being paid mega money and will probably need firing because the new hire will want his guys.

Good luck.

Fans looking to the future will maybe look at one of those internal coaches to step up in the long term, which could work. They were highly-sought after for a reason. Or perhaps it goes well for Tabor and he gets the gig full time?

Or maybe Tepper takes another huge swing from the fences and pursues an experienced operator like Jim Harbaugh, who looks certain to leave the University of Michigan this offseason.

Whatever happens, the Panthers need to take the long view of their rebuild. They need to install some culture – Something that I don’t think Tepper has ever found as he lurches from one coach to the next. And most of all, the need to put the building blocks around Bryce Young and support him.

The Jaguars constructed a disastrous first year for Trevor Lawrence with the hiring of Urban Mayer and now look at them.

The Texans have gone from nobodies to potential somebodies in the space of 11 games with C.J. Stroud and DeMeco Ryans at the helm.

There’s hope for every franchise in the NFL, in pretty much all situations, it just needs sound decision making at the top. Which is maybe the biggest problem for this team to solve.

Feature Image Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Lee Wakefield

NFL, CFB & NFL Draft

Lee Wakefield IS A defensive line enthusiast, Chargers Sufferer, and LONG-TIME writer and podcaster with a number of publications. Find his Chargers content over at Bolt Beat. @Wakefield90 on twitter