Panthers David Tepper is rubbing off on his newly-minted coaching staff.
Tepper has a saying – people in finance get ahead by making moves before they become popular. Setting the curve instead of following it. The NFL is no different – in a copycat league, every team is looking for that extra 1% to put give them a two- or three-year head start on the rest of the league.
The Panthers are hoping that the youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL, 30-year old Joe Brady, can give them that advantage.
“He’s just a football mind. He’s always working, he’s constantly improving, looking for things – the age is relative,” said special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn, who had a brief period working in the building with Brady before the staff was sent home. “It’s how many hours you put in, your details, your preparation, how you communicate with others and get the most out of other people. I think he has all those – checks every box.”
“I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I think everyone in the building is excited that we have him here, no doubt about it.”
With the virtual offseason behind them now and players and coaches on vacation, Brady didn’t rush through this period just to make sure they’d gotten through 100% of the playbook – so that the running backs know where the tight ends are on certain plays, the offensive line understands why they’re blocking a certain way, teaching conceptually instead of specifically while still focusing on the details of the playbook and offensive scheme were paramount.
His position coaches instilled the same message into the players – Frisman Jackson has been coaching up the wide receivers to know where and how to block downfield on run plays so they can be in the perfect position when McCaffrey just like Jeff Nixon taught McCaffrey where to look for blockers downfield.
The details are where Brady lives – where he finds the advantage.
“He’s a football grinder,” said Rhule about his offensive coordinator. “He’s constantly working on football and I think the players recognize that – the players always know who works and who doesn’t. We ask them to work and they want to play for people who work … if you find guys who will work hard and are good people, you’ll always have a chance.”
Brady has made one thing clear since he was hired – and this mantra was likely one of the main reasons he was hired in the first place – he doesn’t run the Joe Brady offense and find the players to fill it. He learns the players and then builds the Joe Brady offense – an offense that can give them that leg up on the competition.
Can give them that 1% advantage.
“It’s all about finding a vision for each player on the team and figuring out what they do best,” said Brady in a virtual teleconference earlier this month. “Once we figure out what our guys do well, then we can figure out what our offense is going to be.”
“Football evolves. The game evolves. Offense evolves. Just because schemes worked five years ago doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be successful right now – there’s always elements that you can add to your games or your schemes or studying defenses as much as you’re studying offenses. That 1%, to me, is just having that knowledge that the system is going to evolve.”
“It’s just understanding that we’re all learning right now an in order to be the offense that we want to get to, we can’t just sit here and be stuck in our ways.”
While he has high expectations for himself and his offense, he won’t put a number on his offensive goals – or on Christian McCaffrey’s touches, although those two numbers are likely tied together – this season. He’d rather his first season as an offensive coordinator be defined by a sentiment that likely has trickled down from Matt Rhule, who has said in the past it’s less about wins and losses and more about being the best team you can be – if you’re going to go 13-3, be the best, most disciplined 13-3 team of all time. If you’re 4-12, then so be it – but be the best 4-12 team you can be.
“At the end of the season, I want the players to say they played their best football with us,” said Brady. “If our players, at the end of the year, say they played their best football under us, then I think we did our job.”
While many fans will continue to mourn the loss of Cam Newton to the New England Patriots, Brady’s inventive and exciting offense – utilizing the entire width and length of the field in terms of deploying tempo at perhaps a differnt pace than NFL defenses, or Panthers fans, are used to seeing – with the quarterback that the coaching staff has hand-picked to run it can be a brick in the footpath to recovery.
The prospect of a new quarterback and a 2020 season that might not feature a winning record, as the players and coaches recover from installing a new scheme with no offseason, likely isn’t very palatable for many Panthers fans, but there will almost certainly be some growing pains, both for one of the youngest rosters in the NFL and for the youngest offensive coordinator in the league. But Brady doesn’t seem nervous; Matt Rhule calls what Brady exudes humble confidence – “humble enough to prepare, but confident enough to perform”. And he has been preparing for this opportunity since he was a wide receiver in high school – and in terms of performance, his resumé speaks for itself.
Despite being labeled as the passing game coordinator at LSU, Brady had his hands in every aspect of the offense – every call sheet. Every game plan. Brady touched everything that made LSU one of the most prolific college offenses of all time. Brady was only with the Tigers for one season – a season that saw the go undefeated and win the title while their previously unheralded quarterback won the Heisman en route to being the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Oh, and they were the only team in NCAA history to feature a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. So when you talk about being ahead of the curve, Brady isn’t just ahead of it – the curve is a dot to him.
That’s a Friends reference – forgive Brady if he doesn’t know it. He was four years old when Friends premiered – he’s more of an Office guy, so he’ll probably like this one better:
When it comes to NFL defenses, Joe Brady is ready to face any challenge that might be foolish enough to face him.
(Top Photo Via Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV)