Carolina Panthers fire head coach Frank Reich

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper fired coach Frank Reich on Monday, less than 24 hours after the owner left the locker room muttering an expletive following Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

Reich’s tenure at Carolina ended with an NFL-worst 1-10 record — including an 0-6 mark on the road. He also becomes the first NFL head coach since the 1970 merger to be fired in back-to-back seasons after last year’s dismissal from the Indianapolis Colts.

“There’s a heart-pounding disappointment in not hitting the marks that we needed to hit to keep this going and try to get it turned around,” Reich, who has a career record of 41-43-1, told The Charlotte Observer on Monday. “It hurts me for the guys, the team, the coaches and the fans.”

Reich said he was told that he was being fired during an in-person meeting with Tepper on Monday morning.

“I met with Coach Reich this morning and informed him that he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers,” Tepper said in a statement. “I want to thank Frank for his dedication and service, and we wish him well.”

Reich told the Observer that he wasn’t done with coaching, but he added “this is probably the final chapter of my NFL journey.”

Special teams coach Chris Tabor has been appointed as interim head coach, while offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will assume playcalling duties with help from senior assistant Jim Caldwell.

The Panthers on Monday also fired assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown.

Tepper has scheduled a news conference for 10:30 a.m. ET Tuesday. There will be no team availability Monday.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, there have only been six NFL head coaches since the merger who didn’t finish their first season with their team, with three of those instances having come in the past three seasons: Urban Meyer (Jaguars), Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos) and Reich.

Reich, who turns 62 next week, was fired after the offense produced 15 or fewer points for the fifth straight week and seventh time in 11 games.

The offense produced only 10 points in each of the past two games after Reich reclaimed the playcalling duties from Brown only three games after turning them over to him.

After Sunday’s game, Tepper left the locker room shaking his head in disgust and was heard by multiple reporters yelling “F—!”

“I want to convey that I have nothing but positive thoughts about Mr. Tepper,” Reich told The Charlotte Observer. “On a personal level, I saw a side of him that I deeply respect and care about. But the NFL is a meritocracy. It’s not unconditional love. I understand from a professional standpoint Mr. Tepper is going to have certain standards that he expects to have met. I have no hard feelings, and my personal relationship with him was actually a real highlight of this short time.”

The Panthers are assured of a sixth straight losing season since Tepper bought the team in 2018 for $2.275 billion. Since then, the Panthers are 30-63 (.323) — second-worst only to the New York Jets.

Sunday’s performance left the Panthers 30th in the NFL in total offense and 30th in passing yards per game.

That didn’t bode well for Reich, who was hired in January for his offensive prowess.

Reich also was hired to bring along rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick of the 2023 draft after Carolina traded two first-round picks and wide receiver DJ Moore to Chicago Bears to move from ninth to first.

Young ranks 29th in the NFL in Total QBR with a rating of 32.0. He also ranks near the bottom of the league in passer rating at 74.9 and has been sacked 40 times, tied for the fifth most for a player through his first 10 games since sacks were first tracked in 1963.

McCown, along with Reich, was responsible for developing Young, which never happened. Look for Caldwell in his new role to play a big role in that as a former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Staley was responsible for a running game that ranks near the bottom of the league with 1,019 yards (92.6 pg.) and is tied for last in rushing touchdowns with three. He also was Reich’s assistant head coach.

Carolina fans have been so disgusted that in two homes games — Minnesota and Dallas — they sold enough of their tickets to fans from the visiting team to make Bank of America Stadium look like a home game for them.

All that didn’t sit well with Tepper and left Reich to be fired in-season for the second straight year after he was dismissed in 2022 by the Colts after a 3-5-1 start.

“It was a great opportunity,” Reich told the Observer. “The way the doors opened up for it was amazing, but there’s not always a storybook ending. … I also take comfort and find peace and strength that there is a next chapter of my life. I do believe that.”

This is the second consecutive year Tepper has fired his head coach in-season. Matt Rhule was fired last year after a 1-4 start.

Tepper and his search committee targeted Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson early in their search. When Johnson notified teams he was staying in Detroit, the search turned to Reich because of his history with offenses, his ability to help a rookie quarterback grow and his promise to build a veteran staff.

He was signed to a four-year deal in January. The Panthers will owe him about $25 million, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“I want to say that I believe there is a strength and character of leadership in that locker room that is at such a high level and is so strong, that there’s no doubt in my mind that there is a foundation for all the success that this team is going to have,” Reich told the Observer. “… This ends in an extremely disappointing fashion, but I will always be a Panthers fan.”

Reich went to four Super Bowls as a player with the Buffalo Bills, where he was primarily a backup. As a coach, he won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2017 season in which he was the offensive coordinator.

In 2017, Reich helped Carson Wentz go 11-2 with MVP-caliber numbers before a season-ending injury, and Nick Foles become the Super Bowl MVP in a 41-33 victory against the New England Patriots.

He also worked with future Hall of Fame quarterback Philip Rivers with the then-San Diego Chargers and the Colts.


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