Panthers Fire Head Coach Frank Reich; Grade Within

If it feels like I JUST wrote an article grading a Frank Reich firing, that’s because I did. However, that post concerned his dismissal from the Colts after nearly 5 years with the team. Today, he was fired by the Carolina Panthers after just 11 games, marking the second-shortest tenure in NFL history. Only Pete McCulley (9 games) of San Francisco in 1978 had a shorter stint as a head coach; even Urban Meyer lasted 13 games with the Jaguars in 2021. QB coach Josh McCown and RB coach Duce Staley were also dismissed, but this grade will be about Reich, as I don’t think the position coaches were super consequential.

Known for his role developing Carson Wentz and then helping guide Nick Foles to a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, Reich earned a reputation as a QB guru. That didn’t last in Indianapolis, where Wentz, Foles, Sam Ehlinger, and Matt Ryan all flamed out. Not all of that could be pinned on Reich, so he was quickly hired in Carolina. His main job was to take whoever the team drafted at #1 and turn him into a franchise QB. Therein lies the problem. I suggested in my final mock draft that Reich wanted CJ Stroud, not Bryce Young. New reports are proving that take to be true.

Struggles were likely to occur if you accept the premise that owner David Tepper overruled his brand new coaching staff on the QB pick. This is the part where my grade diverges from Reich a bit. I’m not sure the coaching hire mattered one bit. What we have in Carolina is a meddlesome owner who thinks he knows a lot more than the football people. He imposes his will on the front office, which is his right as owner, but it’s not a smart strategy. There’s a reason that only the Jets have a worse winning percentage since Tepper bought the team.

Let me be clear: a 1-10 record is awful, and it’s only made worse when you compare Young’s issues with Stroud’s early success. I don’t believe you can blame that on Reich though. GM Scott Fitterer, if he was even in control of the personnel decisions, drafted a QB at #1 overall without first giving him an ounce of protection. This is the league’s worst offensive line. His weapons are mediocre, mostly because DJ Moore was traded to Chicago as part of the Young trade. It’s hard to say that Stroud would have done better in Carolina. What we can say is that Reich would have done better with Stroud based on his history.

ST coordinator Chris Tabor will serve as the interim, but even if he does well, it’s unlikely that he’ll get the full-time gig. Reich probably wasn’t the optimal coaching hire in hindsight, but he certainly wasn’t at fault for this atrocious start. Tepper wants Young to develop more, but there are so many reasons why that’s not likely this year. These range from Young’s size to his supporting cast. Most of all, he is likely to fail because of Tepper himself. Young now has to learn a new offense when he hasn’t even mastered his first one. Nothing will change in Carolina as long as Tepper involves himself in every football decision.

My grade here reflects that I don’t believe this coaching change will make a difference in the long term. Maybe the team gets a fire lit under it and has a couple of good games. Right now, they’re projected to pick first again…except that pick belongs to Chicago. Tepper doesn’t even seem to care that between Reich and Matt Rhule, he owes people $70M to NOT coach his team. His lack of patience will sabotage any coach who takes this completely unappealing job. I don’t know who he can replace Reich with; any good coach with options will stay as far away from this situation as he possibly can.

Grade: F

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