Frank Reich has been pretty busy over the past month.
Since being named the sixth full-time head coach in Carolina Panthers history in January, Reich has spent the majority of his days recruiting coaches to his staff. So far, that recruiting process has drawn rave reviews.
From Jim Caldwell to Ejiro Evero to Josh McCown, Reich has collected a group of notable names with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Or, as Reich referred to it on Tuesday, a staff that has a “diversity of thought.”
After a three-week reprieve, Reich addressed the media at Bank of America for a second time during the early days of his Panthers reunion tour. During that session, Reich offered up some insight into the future of his squad.
Here are some quick takeaways from Reich’s chat with the media:
Reich will call plays, but maybe not for long
Reich said that he plans on calling plays for the Panthers on offense. He said that he felt it was a benefit to the offense because of his experience calling plays in the past. Reich called plays throughout his nearly five-year tenure as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
However, Reich did say that he plans to give up the play-calling duties down the road. New offensive coordinator Thomas Brown impressed Reich in interviews and has continued to do so since he’s joined the staff. Reich said it won’t be hard to pass the baton to Brown when the time comes for him to delegate play-calling responsibilities. Reich decided to not give a timeline on when that changing of the guard would come.
The Panthers will run a base 3-4 defense
The Panthers will switch up their base formation under Evero. The new defensive coordinator called a 3-4 base defense in Denver with the Broncos last season, and Reich noted that the Panthers will adapt that base formation in Carolina. Reich said Evero was hired because of the man that he is and not because of his scheme.
While a reworking of a defensive scheme might cause some concern for outsiders, Reich astutely noted that base formations are only used in minor fraction of defensive plays. Evero is known for playing heavy dime packages — six defensive backs on the field at once — so the 3-4 base formation will essentially be a sub-package. Most defenses run nickel formations — five defensive backs — as a primary formation in the NFL because of the heavy pass game looks offered by offenses.
The change would move Pro Bowl defensive end Brian Burns to outside linebacker and possibly send SAM linebacker Frankie Luvu to an inside position. The Panthers are likely to look for defensive linemen and linebackers who fit the new base defense but also have the versatility to line up in multiple different fronts.
Staley won’t be just an assistant head coach in title
Reich was adamant that new assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley wouldn’t just be a coach with a paper title. Reich said Staley will address the team, essentially as his right-hand man, in meeting rooms and on the practice field. Staley is known for his abrasive and honest approach to coaching, and Reich said the South Carolina alum’s authenticity is important for his role as a coach and leader on the staff.
Reich dubbed Staley as “The Hammer,” who can complement the head coach’s even-keeled personality. The pair grew close during their two years in Philadelphia, where they won Super Bowl LII together in 2018 before Reich headed to Indianapolis.
Carolina has a game-management coordinator
Reich noted that the Panthers hired George Li as a game management coordinator. That hire had yet to be announced by the team. Li served as a senior football strategy analyst for the Colts during Reich’s tenure in Indianapolis. Li will help the Panthers with pregame and in-game decision-making, likely based on situational challenges and opportunities.
When asked about the tight ends coach position — the lone position coach vacancy on the staff — Reich said he would be ready to announce that within the next couple of days.
Panthers still evaluating roster
When Reich was asked about free-agent veteran quarterback Derek Carr, the head coach said the team is still evaluating its current roster. With new coaches coming into the fold on a near-daily basis, assistants are still assessing their assigned position groups. Reich wasn’t forthcoming on how the Panthers were going to address the starting quarterback position, noting the lack of internal discussions among the staff.
The Panthers plan to have their first staff meeting Tuesday. There are likely to be a few more hires made prior to the Panthers’ trip to the NFL combine next week.