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Panthers fire Frank Reich after 11 games, shortest head-coaching tenure since 1978
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Panthers fire Frank Reich after 11 games, shortest head-coaching tenure since 1978

Panthers fire Frank Reich after 11 games, shortest head-coaching tenure since 1978

The Carolina Panthers have fired Frank Reich after 11 games, owner David Tepper announced Monday morning. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will serve as interim coach.

Later in the day, the Panthers also fired quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley, a league source said.

Reich’s firing comes two weeks after he took over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Thomas Brown — three games after delegating the responsibility to Brown in Week 8. Carolina fell to 1-10 on Sunday in a 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Brown will resume calling offensive plays with senior assistant Jim Caldwell serving as a special adviser, Tepper said.

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At 11 games, Reich’s tenure is the second-shortest in NFL history for a head coach who coached a regular-season game. The San Francisco 49ers fired Pete McCulley after a 1-8 start to the 1978 season.

(Two head coaches didn’t make it to the regular season; Bill Belichick resigned as New York Jets coach after one day in 2000, while George Allen was fired by the Los Angeles Rams after two preseason games in 1977.)

The Panthers hired Reich in January and traded for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in March, selecting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young. However, under Reich, Young has posted a 74.9 passer rating, the worst of the three QBs selected in the first round. The Panthers also rank 30th in the NFL with 265.9 yards per game on offense.

Reich took over for interim coach Steve Wilks, who was promoted after Carolina fired Matt Rhule following a 1-4 start to the 2022 season. The Panthers have the worst record in the NFL after going 7-10 in 2022.

Carolina traded its 2024 first-round pick to the Chicago Bears in the trade that landed it Young.

Reich previously went 40-33-1 in four-plus seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, reaching the playoffs twice and winning one postseason game. He was fired after a 3-5-1 start to the 2022 season.

The Panthers are the second team to make a coaching change this season, joining the Raiders, who fired Josh McDaniels after eight games.

What was Reich’s downfall?

Tepper was sold on Reich’s offensive credentials and his ability to bring in a big-name staff that included former coaches (Caldwell, Dom Capers) and several up-and-comers. The idea was Young would have a building full of QB whisperers. Except it didn’t take.

The Panthers have been near the bottom in the league offensively, Young has struggled and the offense didn’t improve after Reich reclaimed play calling from Brown. Reich looked defeated after Sunday’s loss at Tennessee, where Tepper dropped an F-bomb and shook his head after exiting the locker room. — Joe Person, Panthers staff writer

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Who will Tepper target?

Monday’s announcement didn’t address the future of general manager Scott Fitterer, who is thought to be on shaky ground after failing to provide Young with enough playmakers. Tepper is expected to go after an offensive-minded coach again.

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was his top choice last winter before Johnson removed himself from consideration. Tepper almost certainly will make another run at Johnson and don’t be surprised if he tries to make a splash with someone like Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh or Belichick.

But Tepper’s history of firing coaches and being hands-on could give proven coaches pause. — Person

Why were McCown and Staley also let go?

Before diving into that question, it’s important to note that Reich’s ability to assemble a supposed all-star staff was a big reason why Tepper hired him. Now it’s all being blown up 10 months later. Tabor made the decision to move on from McCown, who was in his first year as an NFL assistant, and Staley, who had worked with Reich in Philadelphia. With Caldwell taking on a more active role, Tabor seemingly wanted to streamline the process and have fewer voices in Young’s ear.

As for Staley, he was overseeing the NFL’s 29th-ranked rushing offense and had a hand in the decision to sign former Eagles back Miles Sanders, who has been unproductive in his first season in Carolina. — Person

Required reading

(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)