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Panthers hire Frank Reich as coach: Why he got the job and what he may do at QB

The Carolina Panthers have hired Frank Reich as their coach, the team announced Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Reich takes over for interim coach Steve Wilks, who was promoted after Carolina fired Matt Rhule following a 1-4 start to the season.
  • Reich, 61, went 40-33-1 in four-plus seasons with the Colts, reaching the playoffs twice and winning one postseason game.
  • He was fired after a 3-5-1 record to start the 2022 season and replaced by former Colts player Jeff Saturday.
  • The Panthers finished 7-10 in 2022, second place in the NFC South.

Why was Reich the choice?

Owner David Tepper seemed focused on hiring an offensive-minded coach for the first time in Panthers’ history. He was enamored early on with Ben Johnson before the Lions offensive coordinator removed himself from consideration. Reich has the offensive resume Tepper sought, as well as the head-coaching experience most of the candidates lacked.

Reich impressed Tepper during their first meeting early in the search, then re-emerged after Johnson pulled out and the Panthers’ interest in Sean Payton waned. It came down to Reich and Wilks, and Reich’s offensive background tipped the scale in his favor. — person

Wilks went 6-6 as interim coach. Carolina remained in playoff contention until its Week 17 loss to the Buccaneers.

In a statement after Reich was hired, attorneys for Wilks — who is a plaintiff in former Cardinals coach Brian Flores’ civil discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and several teams — said they opposed the decision.

“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by David Tepper ,” attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis said. “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”

What will Reich do at QB?

Reich’s cycled through four quarterbacks in four seasons following Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement, similar to the Panthers’ musical chairs at the position post-Cam Newton. The Panthers only have two quarterbacks under contract for this season — one of whom (Matt Corral) was injured all of last season and another (Jacob Eason) saw mop-up duty in one game.

In hiring Reich, the Panthers kept the first-round pick they likely would have surrendered for Payton, and it’s possible CJ Stroud or Will Levis is still available at No. 9 in the draft. The Panthers could consider re-signing Sam Darnold as a bridge QB. Jacoby Brissett, who started for Reich for a season in Indy, will be a free agent. — person

What’s the Panthers’ ceiling with Reich?

Reich won a Super Bowl ring with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia but won only one playoff game in four full seasons with the Colts — a wild-card victory at Houston in what turned out to be Luck’s next-to-last game. Reich went to the playoffs twice with the Colts, whose 37 wins from 2018 to 2021 ranked 11th in the league during that span.

Tepper’s hungry for a postseason berth: The Panthers haven’t been since he bought the team in 2018. With Reich inheriting a much-improved offensive line, a playmaker in DJ Moore and a solid defense, it’s not a stretch to suggest the Panthers could win the NFC South next season — if they get the quarterback right. — person

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(Picture: Tim Warner/Getty)

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