Reich to call offensive plays for Panthers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

By Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich said he plans to be the team’s offensive play-caller — at least for now.

Reich, who called plays the past four seasons as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, said it’s something he feels comfortable doing and enjoys, but that he eventually plans on handing the role over to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.

When that will be, he doesn’t know.

“I know that is going to be hard,” Reich said. “I’ve laughed with Thomas about that already, saying ‘I’m going to pass it off at some point, I don’t know when.’ There will be a time and a place and I think that will become apparent when that is.”

Still, Reich added he will “lean heavy” on Brown for his input on play-calling.

Brown, who spent the 2022 season as the assistant head coach/tight ends coach for the Los Angeles Rams, is one of the few assistants Reich hired that he didn’t have a previously relationship with in the league.

So while Reich feels strongly about Brown’s skills, calling him a coach with “wisdom, conviction and strength,” there may still need to be a level of comfort that needs to be cultivated.

Brown last served as an offensive coordinator and play-caller from 2016-18 for the Miami Hurricanes.

“I think the right thing for me to do for our team and for our offense right now is for me to continue to use my experience there,” Reich said.

Reich has some work to do.

Carolina went 7-10 last season and finished 29th in the NFL in overall offense and passing amid inconsistent quarterback play. Exactly who’ll be lining up under center in 2023 for the Panthers remains to be seen.

Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker are free agents, leaving last year’s third-round draft pick Matt Corral as the only returning QB on the roster.

However, Corral didn’t play at all as a rookie after going down with a season-ending foot injury in the preseason.

Reich wouldn’t say if the Panthers plan to bring in former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr for a visit, saying the staff is just beginning to discuss potential free agents and no decisions have been made.

However, the general feeling among the Panthers front office is they’d like to build around a young quarterback. General manager Scott Fitterer was a member of the Seattle Seahawks personnel staff when they selected Russell Wilson in the third round and later went on to win a Super Bowl and multiple division titles.

Defensively, Reich confirmed the Panthers will employ a 3-4 base defense, a change from last year’s base 4-3 scheme.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise given defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero used the 3-4 scheme while serving in the same role with the Denver Broncos last season.

Reich has assembled an experienced staff that includes two former head coaches in Dom Capers and Jim Caldwell, who’ll serve as senior assistants and advisers.

The Panthers were also able to land Brown and Evero — two highly sought-after coordinators that both had interviews for head coaching openings this cycle — while keeping successful special teams coordinator Chris Tabor.

Some of the team’s assistant coaches bring a wealth of experience, including Shawn Jefferson (wide receivers), Duce Staley (running backs), James Campen (offensive line) and Todd Wash (defensive line).

The Panthers also added a game management coach in George Li.

Panthers owner David Tepper has made it clear he planned to use his deep pockets — he’s the second-wealthiest owner in the NFL per Forbes — to assemble the best coaching staff money could buy, given there is no salary cap for coaches.

In some cases, the Panthers were able to outbid other teams to land assistants such as Evero.

“To Mr. Tepper’s credit, he never flinched on that statement,” Reich said. “He’s been around the block a few times. That doesn’t mean it’s an open checkbook, that just means that we are willing to do what it takes to get the right coaches and put the right team together. He backed up what he said, I can tell you that.

“We were able to compete against other teams who were vying for similar candidates where we came out on top because of that (financial) backing.”


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