Panthers hire Frank Reich as new head coach
The Carolina Panthers have reached an agreement with Frank Reich to take over as their new head coach.
Reich, a former Panthers quarterback who started the first three games of the franchise’s inaugural season in 1995, spent four seasons as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts before being fired nine games into the 2022 campaign.
The 61-year-old becomes the sixth permanent head coach in Panthers history and the first with an offensive background, a likely selling point for an organisation that has been marred by instability at quarterback since it last reached the playoffs in 2017.
Reich compiled a 40-33 regular-season record with Indianapolis and reached the playoffs in 2018 and 2020.
The Colts finished 9-8 in 2021 but failed to make the postseason after a stunning loss to a 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars team in the finale, and got off to a 3-5-1 start this season when Reich was dismissed on November 7.
Prior to taking over the Colts, Reich served as the offensive coordinator during the Philadelphia Eagles' 2017 championship season and was instrumental in the development of quarterback Carson Wentz, who finished third in MVP voting after throwing for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns in his second NFL campaign.
The Panthers own the number nine pick in this year's draft and are expected to strongly consider taking a young quarterback after finishing 27th in the NFL in passer rating while starting three players (Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker, Sam Darnold) at the position.
Mayfield was ultimately released in December and Darnold is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Reich fills a void created when Matt Ruhle was fired five games into the season after going 11-27 in two-plus years.
Interim coach Steve Wilks, who went 6-6 after Ruhle's ousting to move Carolina within one game of NFC South champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reportedly was a finalist for the permanent job before team owner David Tepper decided on Reich.
According to NFL.com, Wilks is expected to pursue other opportunities and will not remain on staff.
The Panthers are the first of five teams that let go of head coaches during or after the 2022 season to name a replacement. The Colts, the Arizona Cardinals, the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans are still looking to fill vacancies.