The Carolina Panthers have a big decision to make this off-season when it comes to their head coaching position. It was not a vacancy they were expecting to have when they signed Matt Rhule to an eye-popping seven-year, $62 million contract. He didn’t even make it through three seasons before being relieved of his duties.
Rhule put together back-to-back five-win seasons in 2020 and 2021 before making it through only five games in 2022 before being fired. Steve Wilks replaced him as the interim coach and did a wonderful job keeping the Panthers in the hunt, as he went 6-6 to close out the season.
The biggest issue that plagued Rhule during his tenure with the franchise was the inability to find a quarterback. In 2020 the starter was Teddy Bridgewater. In 2021, they took a shot on Sam Darnold, who was solid until Christian McCaffrey was injured and all of the issues that persisted with the New York Jets began occurring. For the 2022 season, the Panthers acquired Baker Mayfield, who was benched twice and eventually released.
Wilks got more out of Darnold than Rhule was ever able to and Mayfield found success with the Los Angeles Rams after his release. Whoever is brought in as head coach will be tasked with developing that quarterback if it is a first-round rookie or 2022 third-round draft pick Matt Corral.
That is likely why the Panthers have been going heavy on offensive-minded people early in their head coaching search. Wilks has a defensive background, so it does make sense they would scour the market for coaches that come from the other side of the ball.
Jim Caldwell is one veteran with head coaching experience that interviewed for the job, as his interview was conducted on Monday. After that, it was all young, up-and-coming offensive coordinators that the Panthers are planning on bringing in.
Requests have been made to interview Mike Kafka of the New York Giants, Ken Dorsey of the Buffalo Bills, Shane Steichen of the Philadelphia Eagles and Ben Johnson of the Detroit Lions. Dorsey, Steichen and Johnson all oversaw top-five offenses. While the Giants finished 16th in points, Kafka deserves a lot of credit for getting the most out of a group that Richie James led in receptions and had waiver addition Isaiah Hodgins breaking into the starting lineup.
It would not be shocking if Carolina leaned toward one of the younger offensive minds with a veteran such as Caldwell or Frank Reich, who is also interviewing for the head coaching spot, being brought on as offensive coordinator. It will be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks as the Panthers are moving fastest of any franchise in need of a new head coach.