After an exhaustive interview process that saw David Tepper and Matt Rhule interview 15 candidates from around the NFL, the Carolina Panthers settled on the fourth official General Manager in franchise history (Dom Capers, Mike McCormack and George Seifert all had either interim or de facto tags) last week when they officially hired Scott Fitterer to helm their front office.
While Tepper and Rhule were Zoom-ing with most of the league, another member of the Panthers was doing some exhaustive interviewing of his own.
Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady interviewed for head coaching positions with the Eagles, Falcons, Jets, Texans and Chargers over the course of the past month, but it would appear the 31-year old is staying put in Carolina. Four of those five teams have gone in a different direction with their coaching hires and the Texans were one of the first interviews held after the Panthers’ 2020 season came to a close – it seem as if they’ve moved on to other candidates.
It was no surprise that the 31-year old who shot through the coaching ranks would be a sought-after commodity this offseason after guiding a McCaffrey-less Panthers offense to respectability in 2020. A Sean Payton pupil who is considered one of the burgeoning offensive minds in the league and one that has a great relationship with his players will always be looked highly upon in a league that is constantly looking for the next Sean McVay.
But Matt Rhule is excited to see what Brady can continue to cook up in Carolina.
While he wouldn’t rule out Brady still getting another gig – “you never know in this business, right?” – it would appear that the Panthers will have their wunderkind offensive mind back for 2021, a prospect Rhule is fired up about, especially after the obstacles Brady and the rest of the staff faced in their first offseason.
“One great thing about Joe is [that] every year that he coaches, I think [that] he’s just so smart and such a good person, he’ll get better and better and better at what he does,” said Rhule. “And so I’m excited to have a chance to have him back next year. No one can ever understand how hard that was for Joe last year trying to install a system for the first time over Zoom.”
“It’s not like he came in with his own coaches, right? New coaches, new players.”While the road will be easier in his sophomore campaign, Brady will face a few of the same challenges he faced last year.
The Panthers have lost QB Coach Jake Peetz, offensive assistant DJ Mangas and assistant offensive line coach Marcus Satterfield – who Rhule called one of his ‘right-hand guys’ – to the college ranks this month. Peetz and Mangas will helm the offensive staff at LSU and Satterfield will head down the road to be offensive coordinator at the University of South Carolina.
“Those are guys that I wanted back,” Rhule explained. “But I’m not going to be the type of person that prevents someone from having the chance to go take care of their family and also have a chance to call plays in the SEC is a big deal.”
A league source confirmed the Panthers have hired Sean Ryan, who previously worked with Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford, as quarterbacks coach and Tony Sparano, Jr. as assistant offensive line coach – while Rhule couldn’t comment on those non-official hirings, he referred to both as “experts at their position.”
In addition to new coaches on the offensive side of the ball, Brady may have to again contend with doing most of his offseason work through Zoom as the NFLPA is preparing for a 2021 offseason that looks similar to 2020.
But after an offseason like 2020, that saw not only almost the entire coaching staff turn over, but over 60% of the roster change and a staff in – for the most part – their first NFL season attempt to both evaluate a roster and install a brand new scheme on both sides of the ball without being able to see the players in person, a little Zooming sounds like a breeze.
This week, Brady is drawing up scripts for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, where the Panthers get a first-hand look at multiple draft prospects next weekend – but soon he will focus his attention on a Panthers offense that likely will see some changes this offseason. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t exactly received a vote of confidence from Rhule or Tepper, the offensive line currently only has one starter under contract and it seems unlikely the Panthers can bring back both of their marquee free agents on the offensive side of the ball.
But despite those changes, Rhule expects Brady and the Panthers offense to continue to show growth in the offensive coordinator’s second season.
“I really look forward to this year and seeing what Joe started to build really [start to] bear fruit,” said Rhule. “If it works out, I’m really excited to have him back.”
(Top Photo Via Brian Westerholt/Associated Press)