The Carolina Panthers made waves last week when they gave head coach Frank Reich the pink slip just 11 games into his tenure. Reich’s Panthers had been historically bad, sure, struggling to a 1-10 record to start the season, but it was still a surprise to see them let him go so soon.
In-season coaching changes always provide a challenge, as there’s only so much one can do to overhaul a team overnight: you can’t install an entirely new offense or team culture more than two-thirds of the way through the regular season, and with the season already looking like a lost cause, changing head coaches signals to the fans and players that ownership has punted on the current year.
In steps interim head coach Chris Tabor to take on the difficult task of picking up the pieces that Reich and Panthers’ owner David Tepper left. Tabor has served as a special teams coordinator for three different NFL teams for more than a decade. He has plenty of experience leading players, but is he the right man for the job as the Panthers eye an extensive rebuild? Here’s everything we know about the new head man in Charlotte.
What’s Going On With the Panthers?
The Panthers hired Frank Reich this past offseason, ostensibly with the goal of tutoring a young quarterback. Reich made a name for himself over the past few seasons as an excellent offensive mind, and when the Panthers traded up for the first overall pick in the draft, Reich’s balanced system predicated on run-pass options seemed like a great scenario to help former Heisman trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young find his feet in the NFL.
That setup never really panned out, though, and Young sports some of the worst stats in the entire league through the first 11 games of his career: 2,055 passing yards on 381 attempts, amounting to a paltry 5.4 yards per throw, along with as many touchdowns as interceptions (nine apiece). It doesn’t help that the rest of the team around Young has performed pitifully, but that’s not anywhere near the level of play you want to see out of a first overall pick.
It quickly became clear that the partnership between Reich and Young wasn’t going to work out, with the veteran head coach listed at Caesars Sportsbook North Carolina Promo Codes as one of the most likely to get fired early in the season.
Even so, going out and hiring a special teams coordinator to fix an offensive player doesn’t really make sense.
The Right Man to Fix Bryce Young?
After the Panthers traded a pair of first round picks to select the young quarterback, their fate became tied to his for the foreseeable future. If Young isn’t able to perform as advertised someday, the Panthers are going to have quite a mess on their hands as they try to salvage the situation.
When you look around the rest of the league, most other young and successful quarterbacks are paired with an excellent offensive mind at head coach: Zac Taylor and Joe Burrow, Kyle Shanahan and Brock Purdy, Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence, and so on. Right now, Tabor has a six game audition to make his case as the head coach moving forward. Even if he succeeds, though, one wonders if he’s the right man for the job.
Chris Tabor’s Career Trajectory
Tabor already has a bit of head coaching experience under his belt, however slight. He served as special teams coordinator for the Chicago Bears from 2008 to 2021, and when Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy went down with COVID-19 during the 2021 season, the Bears selected Tabor to assume Nagy’s role until he was able to take the field again. It’s clear that he’s a trusted professional, always listed as the first choice to step in when things go south, but fixing this Panthers’ team may be beyond his powers.
While special teams coaches may not have the same flashy reputation as offensive wunderkinds or hard-hitting, defensive minded guys, they have discipline on their side. When it comes to plays like punting and kicking returns and coverage, it’s crucial to make sure all your ducks are in a row—one small error can mean a costly penalty or a game-changing touchdown.
As such, the onus is on Tabor to be a mature voice in the locker room: even if the Panthers struggle to beat other teams, he can help prevent them from beating themselves with costly errors. It may not be the sexiest long term solution, but in a league like the NFL where a single mistake can be the difference between victory and defeat, sometimes that’s all it takes.