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HomeSportsPanthers' head coaching search: Potential candidates after Frank Reich firing

Panthers’ head coaching search: Potential candidates after Frank Reich firing

Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich was the second NFL head coach fired this season after the team lost its 10th game of the season Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. 

Reich, 61, was fired Monday after just 11 games and a 1-10 record. He was hired after the Panthers fired former head coach Matt Rhule a few weeks into the 2022 season after two losing seasons and a 1-4 record to start his final year with the team. 

“Listen, obviously it’s been a difficult season. Yesterday, we made some tough decisions,” owner David Tepper said at a press conference Tuesday. “I have great respect for Frank Reich. He’s a fine man.” 

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But the focus was on Tepper during his news conference, where he was pressed about Reich’s firing, the third under Tepper since he bought the franchise in 2018. 

The team has posted a 30-63 record under his leadership. 

“No,” Tepper responded when asked if he thought there would be a struggle to hire a “quality” coach based on his past hirings. 

“Again, I’m not going to get into (it) here, but I think that there are different reasons why different things happen in each case,” Tepper said. 

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The Panthers have seemed to struggle to develop quarterback Bryce Young, the 2023 No. 1 overall pick acquired when Carolina surrendered four draft picks and top wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears. And the team has made little progress turning the offense around. 

The pressure is on Tepper, now more than ever, to find a more permanent replacement. 

These are some of the possible candidates. 

Among the names that have been floated, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has been the most mentioned in media reports. 

The 37-year-old coach has been in the league since 2012, expanding his responsibilities with the Lions since first joining the organization in 2019 as an assistant. Last year, he interviewed with both the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts, according to the NFL Network, and was reportedly on Tepper’s radar before he eventually decided to return to Detroit. 

Johnson’s experience as a passing game coordinator and a second-year offensive coordinator have helped the Lions to an 8-3 record at the top of the NFC North and make him the ideal candidate for Carolina.

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Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was another coach the Panthers looked into during last year’s search. According to reports at the time, he was among the finalists for the Panthers’ job.

Moore, 35, entered coaching 2018 as the quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He then served as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2019-2022 before joining the Chargers in January. 

But questions surrounding Brandon Staley’s future in Los Angeles could make Moore a potential candidate for the position there if it opens up.

The rumors surrounding Bill Belichick and his future in New England have swirled this season as the Patriots continue to endure one of their worst seasons in recent memory. A six-time Super Bowl champion as a head coach, Belichick now sits at the bottom of the AFC East with a 2-9 record and no real chance of salvaging the season. 

Still, reports have continued to speculate that other teams are interested in Belichick, once regarded as one of the greatest NFL coaches. 

This week, during an appearance on WEEI, Belichick called the rumors “ridiculous,” but he declined to answer specifically when asked if he could see himself coaching outside New England. 

“Just trying to do the best job I can right now,” he said in reply. “Obviously, I need to do better.”

The Washington Commanders were linked to Belichick in a report earlier this month, but the Panthers might be in the mix too. 

Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was successful during his brief time in the NFL and continues to succeed with the Michigan football program. 

During last year’s coaching search, Harbaugh was reportedly in talks with the Panthers. In early January, he released a statement saying he would remain with the Wolverines. 

“I love the relationships that I have at Michigan — coaches, staff, families, administration, President Santa Ono and especially the players and their families. My heart is at the University of Michigan. I once heard a wise man say, ‘Don’t try to out-happy, happy.’ Go blue!” 

But things are different this year. Michigan, embattled with an alleged sign-stealing scandal, went undefeated through the regular season, and Harbaugh was suspended the final three games, two against ranked opponents. 

With a legitimate chance to win a national championship, it could be the right time to make an NFL comeback. 

For now, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will take as Carolina’s interim head coach while offensive coordinator Thomas Brown oversees play-calling. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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