Panthers hire Frank Reich
The search for Carolina’s new head coach ends with the team announcing the hiring of Frank Reich.
Carolina Panthers owner Dave Tepper hopes he got the right coach this time around and he’s bullish on Frank Reich. But on Tuesday at Reich’s introductory press event, Tepper also sounded like an owner who was admitting to some previous mistakes the last time he hired a head coach three years ago.
Speaking after Reich’s news conference, Tepper opined that “it’s a mistake to have a CEO-type head coach.” That’s what Matt Rhule was with the Panthers, rather than a coach who specialized on one particular side of the ball.
And Tepper, the self-made billionaire who bought the Panthers in 2018, also said he made some errors in the coaching search that ended up bringing Rhule to the Panthers from Baylor in January 2020. He didn’t specify exactly what those errors were.
“Listen, I’ll self-admit — we could have run a better process last time,” Tepper said. “And I am learning. … With all humility, I could have done better, OK? I’m not saying that Rhule wasn’t a good coach. I’m not saying that. Please don’t interpret it that way. I’m saying I could have run a better process last time. I do believe that. I think this time we were very thorough. I was in every single interview.”
Reich, 61, is a former NFL quarterback who started the first Panthers game at QB in 1995 and won a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“You want to get somebody who’s really good on offense or really good on defense,” Tepper said. “And we think that Frank is really good on offense.”
The emphasis on offense in the coaching search was no accident and, although Tepper didn’t say so, may have hurt former interim head coach Steve Wilks’ candidacy.
Wilks is a defensive specialist and former defensive coordinator. He went 6-6 as Carolina’s head coach after taking over for Rhule — who was fired in October with an 11-27 overall record and quickly secured the head-coaching job at Nebraska. (Rhule did not immediately respond to a text message asking about Tepper’s comment Tuesday.)
Tepper had said when he made Wilks the interim head coach that Wilks might get the permanent head coach position if he did an “incredible job.”
I thought Wilks did just that.
Tepper did not, and hired Reich.
Tepper started his interview session by saying: “I just want to thank Coach Wilks … for his time here and the job he did.”
But he wouldn’t get into any specifics as to why Wilks, who like Reich was interviewed twice for the job, didn’t get it despite righting the ship after Carolina began this season 1-4 under Rhule. General manager Scott Fitterer said that Reich had been particularly impressive in his second interview because of the number of “loose commitments” he already had secured from prospective assistant coaches between Interview 1 and Interview 2.
And Tepper made no secret of which way he thinks the game leans.
“We get in these NFL meetings,” Tepper said. “And every year, they put some new rule to benefit the offense. Every single year. And it’s never going to end. … And the reason is that scoring brings eyeballs, OK? That’s what the league is about, getting eyeballs to watch the thing.
“So I can tell you again, the new rules will be offense-minded rules. I don’t know what they are yet, but there will be offense-minded rules. So you have that challenge.”
Reich called the offensive plays in Indianapolis. Interestingly, he’s not committing to doing that in Carolina, saying it depended on whom he hired for offensive coordinator. But he will he heavily involved in the offense.
In his own press conference, Reich said it was conceivable for any NFL team to turn its fortunes around in a single year and that the Panthers would have a balanced offense.
“It’s a passing league, but you’ve got to run the ball to be a championship team,” Reich said. “You’ve got to put a seed of doubt into the defender’s mind.”
This story was originally published January 31, 2023 3:52 PM.