Panthers fire Frank Reich less than a week before game against Bucs

Reich had coached only 11 games with Carolina, which dropped to an NFL-worst 1-10 with Sunday’s loss at Tennessee.
Frank Reich watches from the sideline during the Carolina Panthers' game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday in Nashville.
Frank Reich watches from the sideline during the Carolina Panthers' game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday in Nashville. [ JOHN AMIS | AP ]
Published Nov. 27, 2023|Updated Nov. 27, 2023

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Frank Reich era in Carolina is over after 11 games.

Six days before they play the Bucs, the Panthers on Monday fired their head coach following the team’s NFL-worst 1-10 start in his first year at the helm.

Panthers owner David Tepper announced the move hours after several news outlets reported that he used a profanity as he was leaving the locker room following a 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Tepper hired Reich to fix one of the league’s worst offenses over the past few seasons and develop Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick whom he gave up four draft picks and top wide receiver D.J. Moore to acquire this past offseason in the hopes of winning multiple Super Bowls.

Instead, the Panthers are assured of a sixth straight losing season since Tepper bought the team in 2018 for $2.275 billion.

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will take over as interim head coach.

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will become the team’s play caller, with senior Jim Caldwell serving as his special adviser.

Phone calls and text messages sent to Reich seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Tepper is 30-63 since taking over as the team’s owner, and the Panthers have yet to have a winning record, let alone make the playoffs.

Tabor will become the fifth head coach or interim head coach since Tepper bought the team. He fired Matt Rhule early last season and replaced him with interim head coach Steve Wilks.

Tabor has never served as an NFL head coach.

After last season, Tepper hired Reich, who had worked two years as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, helping them win the Super Bowl, before joining the Indianapolis Colts, who fired him last year. But Carolina still ranks near the bottom of the league in nearly every offensive category. The Panthers are 30th in the league in total offense and 30th in passing yards per game and haven’t scored more than 15 points in a game since the bye week.

Reich had been scheduled to meet with the media Monday afternoon followed by the team’s open locker room session with players, but all media access has been canceled.

Reich had signed a four-year contract with the Panthers that runs through the 2026 season. Tepper will be on the hook for an estimated $9 million per season over the next three seasons.

Reich now has the second-shortest head coaching tenure in NFL history behind Pete McCulley (1-8 with San Francisco in 1978). Reich is also the fifth NFL head coach in the last six years to be fired during or after one season, joining Nathaniel Hackett (Denver, 2022), Urban Meyer (Jacksonville, 2021), Freddie Kitchens (Cleveland, 2019) and Steve Wilks (Arizona, 2018).

Tepper has a shown a lack of patience throughout his dealings as a team owner.

He also owns the Major League Soccer team in Charlotte and has fired two coaches in the organization’s first two years of existence.

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Several other high-ranking executives that worked for Tepper have either left or been fired.

On the NFL front, Tepper inherited Ron Rivera as his head coach before the 2018 season but fired him less than two years. Perry Fewell finished out the season before Tepper gave Rhule, who previously coached at Baylor, a seven-year, $63 million contract. But Rhule lasted less than 2½ season before Tepper dismissed him and replaced him with Wilks on an interim basis.

Reich had experience running good NFL offenses, but that hasn’t translated over to the Panthers.

Young has been sacked 40 times this season, and the Panthers’ offensive line has allowed 43 overall over in 11 games, fourth most in the NFL. Young has been under heavy pressure most of the season, making it difficult to evaluate his progress as a quarterback.

Because of their record the Panthers could possibly land the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, but that will immediately go to the Chicago Bears because of the trade for Young.

By STEVE REED AP Sports Writer

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