I find it hilarious that an owner with deep pockets like the Panthers' David Tepper who could lure just about anyone with an outrageous contract offer wound up hiring one of the most sensible coaches available on the carousel in Frank Reich.
Why? Because the team who just fired him, the Colts, have an owner who's strongly considering someone with zero experience, Jeff Saturday, as a viable long-term option after watching Saturday go 1-7 in an interim role.
About the only fun fact I knew about Frank Reich when he was a QB in the league was his legendary comeback, as he led the Bills to a 41-38 win over the Oilers in the playoffs after trailing 35-3. How about this!?
Reich pretty much got fucked in Indianapolis because GM Chris Ballard — who still has his job, by the way — refused to acquire a viable quarterback in the wake of Andrew Luck's retirement. That culminated in the turnover-machine shit show that was Matt Ryan in 2022, leading to Reich's removal from office.
Granted, Luck's abrupt decision to walk away was one of the biggest blindside hits to a franchise in sports history, yet we're talking years of Reich trying to drag lackluster QBs back to the postseason. He sadly bet on his own ability to resurrect Carson Wentz's career. We saw how that turned out. To still manage a 40-33-1 record in five years in Indy is a hell of an achievement by Reich in my opinion. Now he joins a program that has failed to post winning records in six of their last seven seasons.
Interesting subplot to all this: Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was a real contender for the Panthers HC gig.
Carolina's brass must've watched Dak Prescott throw up all over himself in the Divisional Round and thought, "Nah, let's go with the guy who helped Nick Foles earn a Super Bowl MVP in Philly instead!"
So yeah, holy shit Panthers, get a damn quarterback. However well Sam Darnold played in bursts down the stretch, he ain't it. Nor was Baker Mayfield. Nor is PJ Walker, his cannon arm and all-timer Hail Mary from this past season notwithstanding.
Think about it if you're Carolina: You upgrade from Ben McAdoo to Reich as the guy running your offense, and Reich is a proven, steady voice in the locker room compared to the collegiate-centric Matt Rhule. Pretty big steps up there. You have an ascending o-line in place and all kinds of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. A solid receiving corps to work with led by DJ Moore. Multiple picks in the second and fourth rounds of the draft thanks to the Christian McCaffrey trade. Not a bad setup!
The NFC South is wide-ass open especially if Tom Brady doesn't play for the Bucs in 2023. All indications are he won't. Carolina picks ninth overall in the 2023 draft. Maybe that's where they look to acquire a new QB/face of the franchise. They could even use some of those extra picks to trade up. I wouldn't hesitate to double dip if I were them, though. Bring in a veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr and let a rookie sit behind them to learn. Both Jimmy G and Carr have played their best in a West Coast-style offense, which is the root of Reich's system.
I get why some people might lament the Panthers passing up interim coach Steve Wilks in favor of Reich. However, in such an offense-driven modern NFL, hiring a defensive coach is tricky. If you have an excellent play-caller for your quarterback, there's a good chance he's gone by the next coaching cycle, leaving your field general in danger of a revolving door of coordinators.
I also feel like a lot of people might criticize this as a boring, conservative hire, or maybe Carolina fans were hoping for a sexier name like Sean Payton. It just seems like the Colts run an antiquated-as-fuck football operation and Reich was sort of getting sucked into that cycle of mediocrity and perpetual lameness.
At least with the Panthers, they're trying to be more forward-looking and progressive in how they think about roster construction, and yeah, their owner is the richest in the NFL, so he will spare no expense in unearthing any which way to build a sustainable winner. Hiring Reich is an underrated, more promising start than the masses are likely to give Carolina credit for.