Panthers hire Frank Reich
The search for Carolina’s new head coach ends with the team announcing the hiring of Frank Reich.
The Carolina Panthers were in search of a new leader and found one on Thursday in Frank Reich.
The former Indianapolis Colts head coach comes back to town with a notable resume, which includes being the first starting quarterback in Panthers history. He has also won a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles and went 40-33-1 in his five-year tenure as head coach of the Colts.
And while the aforementioned accolades look impressive on paper, Reich’s ability to lead a young Panthers locker room and develop a potential franchise quarterback will be the keys to his success in Carolina.
Reich is getting a second chance to steer a franchise after his disappointing downfall in Indianapolis this past season. And one of his former players—who worked with him in both Philadelphia and Indianapolis—believes he will take advantage of the opportunity in Carolina.
“First and foremost, they’re going to have a young quarterback, and Frank has a very good track record with developing young quarterbacks,” former NFL tight end Trey Burton told The Observer on Thursday. “His system isn’t super complicated. It’s not something that is going to take three, four or five years to have the quarterback get down. It’ll be cool for him to choose his guy — whether it’s the draft or free agency.
“And he’s a guy that is a little bit different than the last couple of head coaches that the Panthers have experienced. He’s a guy with a proven resume in the NFL and somebody that has had success and has had really competitive teams over the last couple of years.”
Burton played in the NFL for seven seasons. During three of those campaigns, Reich served as Burton’s offensive coordinator or head coach. Following the 2017 season, they hoisted a Lombardi Trophy in the same locker room with the Eagles, as Reich led backup Nick Foles on a miraculous run to through Super Bowl LII before heading to the Colts.
After their success together in Philadelphia, Burton was eager to rejoin Reich with the Colts in 2020. The versatile playmaker wanted to take advantage of Reich’s play-calling creativity, an attribute he is sure to use with his new Panthers offense.
“He’s really dangerous because he enjoys trick plays, he enjoys different looks,” Burton said. “He enjoys keeping the formation the same but running and being well-versed in multiple different things. He’s not bland by any means — he’s very creative.”
During their reunion season, Reich led Burton and the Colts to an 11-5 record. While the squad was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Burton looks back on that season with fond memories because of the way Reich led the team.
“His analogy was, ‘We’re not going to ride the wave of the ocean. We’re going to create our own wave of positive momentum and positive thought,’ ” Burton said. “So, no matter what happened, the previous play or the previous game or whatever the scenario was, we’re going to move forward and create our own wave.”
Burton describes Reich as an approachable mentor who can talk to players about anything. Reich’s even-keel nature makes him easy to relate to. And according to Burton, while he is a serious leader, he doesn’t mind having fun or joking around with players.
“He is the type of guy you want to play well for because of how good of a person he is,” Burton said. “It’s like having a best friend — you want your best friend to do really well. You don’t want your best friend to be mad at you. You want to be there for him every single chance you get, and stand up for him because of how well he treats you. You’re never worried about Frank losing his mind on somebody or (cussing at somebody). He’s just very chill in a good way.”
And while Reich’s demeanor will never be mistaken for dominating, Burton believes he delegates accountability to his staff members and the head coach-locker room dynamic benefits from his steady approach.
“There are a small percentage of guys who need people to scream at them and yell at them,” Burton said. “There are always guys on the staff for that, but the majority of the NFL community are grown men who want to be talked to like grown men. And they want to have conversations like grown men instead of being yelled at like you’re in college or high school.”
Reich has been a player in an NFL locker room before. His experiences, which took place before the majority of his players were born, can help him relate to the trials and tribulations that the locker room goes through during the season.
After spending 14 years under an NFL helmet, he has a perspective few other head coaches have been able to capture. That perspective should help him as he prepares to win over a locker room that thoroughly embraced the coaching style of interim head coach Steve Wilks.
“It definitely plays a big factor because he’s been in the game and done this before,” Burton said. “He knows what we’re going through for the most part.”
This story was originally published January 26, 2023 3:36 PM.