Panthers widen field in search for coach
Published 11:51 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023
By Steve Reed
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers coaching search is in full swing.
The Panthers have requested permission to interview four different NFL offensive coordinators for their head coaching vacancy, including Buffalo’s Ken Dorsey, Philadelphia’s Shane Steichen, Detroit’s Ben Johnson and the New York Giants’ Mike Kafka, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The team also conducted an interview with former Indianapolis Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell on Monday.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday as the team does not release details of its coaching search.
Panthers owner David Tepper is exploring his options while determining whether to promote interim head coach Steve Wilks to the full-time coach or hire from outside the organization.
Wilks finished 6-6 as the team’s interim head coach and is expected to meet with Tepper this week for his own interview.
Carolina’s interview requests suggest Tepper is interested in upgrading an offense that was ranked 29th in the league this season while struggling with inconsistent quarterback play from Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker and Sam Darnold. Carolina missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season under Tepper’s leadership, finishing 7-10.
The 41-year-old Dorsey has plenty of familiarity with the Panthers, having worked four seasons as the team’s quarterbacks coach and two as a pro scout before joining the Bills in 2019.
With Josh Allen under center, Dorsey has helped the Bills to continue to thrive on offense after replacing Brian Daboll, who left after last season to become the Giants head coach. Buffalo finished the regular season second in the league in offense at 397.6 yards per game and second in scoring at 28.4 points per game.
Steichen, 37, has helped lead the surprising Eagles to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with quarterback Jalen Hurts becoming a strong MVP candidate. Hurts has combined for 35 touchdowns this season, with the Eagles finishing the regular season third in scoring, averaging 28.1 points per game.
Johnson, 36, has helped the Lions offense take a big step forward this season with Jared Goff at quarterback. While Detroit failed to make the playoffs, they finished fourth in offense and fifth in points scored.
The Giants finished 18th in offense under the 35-year-old Kafka.
The 67-year-old Caldwell spent three seasons as the Colts head coach (2009-11) and four as the Lions head coach (2014-17), amassing a 62-50 record with a 2-4 mark in the postseason. He has some ties to North Carolina, having served as the first Black head football coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference when he took over at Wake Forest in 1993.
The Panthers can interview Johnson immediately since the Lions season is over.
They can conduct virtual interviews with Dorsey, Steichen and Kafka this week, but can’t meet with them in person until Monday at the earliest under NFL rules.
Tepper fired Matt Rhule after the Panthers started the season 1-4. Rhule was 11-27 in a little more than two seasons at the helm.