Panthers owner fires another coach after Reich’s first 11 games result in 1-10 record

By Richard Walker

The Carolina Panthers’ most successful coach in history, Ron Rivera, frequently said winning even a single NFL game was hard and something to be cherished.

Rivera was the 1st head coach fired by current Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper when his tenure was ended in its 9th season on Dec. 3, 2019.

On Monday, Tepper fired the 5th head coach in his 5-plus years tenure as Carolina Panthers NFL owner and 3 years as Charlotte FC MSL owner when he announced Frank Reich had been let go after a 1-10 start to this season.

Incredibly, at his July 10, 2018 introductory news conference following his paying a then-NFL record $2.275 billion to Jerry Richardson to become the Panthers owner, Tepper made this statement:

“I’ll take the patience and letting things develop. I think sometimes (decisions) are made too fast.”

Given that Tepper became Panthers’ owner after 9 seasons as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, most felt the Panthers follow that model. After all, the Steelers are arguably the most stable franchise in American sports history with 3 head coaches since 1969.

Instead, he’s fired Rivera and the 2 other head coaches he’s hired and both MLS head coaches in that franchise’s 2 seasons.

Rivera was fired after the 2019 season started at 5-7 and means his tenure with Carolina concluded with a 79-67-1 overall record that remains the franchise’s best.

The other fired NFL coaches were short-time NFL assistant Matt Rhule who had rebuilt college programs at Temple and Baylor and Reich, the 1st starting quarterback in Panthers’ history and a longtime NFL assistant and head coach.

Rivera was replaced by Cramerton’s Perry Fewell, a former South Point High football state champion, and Ruhle was replaced by former West Charlotte standout Steve Wilks. Both interim coaches had the support of their players and local communities but neither was retained when Ruhle and Reich were hired.

This time, Tepper has named longtime NFL special teams coach Chris Tabor as interim coach. And the team has announced Tabor and Tepper will hold a joint news conference on Tuesday morning.

Tabor has been a NFL special teams coach for 16 seasons, including the last 2 years with Carolina.

Reports indicate Tepper was disappointed the offense hadn’t improved – assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown also were fired on Monday – and pleased with the defense and special teams.

Reich was the first offensive coach hired in franchise history as his predecessors Dom Capers, George Seifert, John Fox, Rivera and Rhule all came from defensive backgrounds.

And when the franchise traded away two No. 1 draft picks (including what would now be No. 1 overall in the upcoming NFL Draft), wide receiver D.J. Moore and a 2025 2nd-round pick to the Chicago Bears to move up from No. 9 to No. 1 to select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, they hoped they wouldn’t be at the bottom of the league in virtually every offensive category.

In retrospect, perhaps the decision to change play-calling duties from Reich to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown back to Reich played a role in Tepper’s decision.

Coupled with last year’s decision to fire Rhule after 5 games, the Panthers become only the 4th team in NFL history to make a midseason coaching change in back-to-back seasons and 1st since the Buffalo Bills did so in 1985 and 1986.

Additionally, Reich is only the 6th head coach in NFL history to be fired before completing his 1st year in a head coaching job and, at 11 games, is the 4th-shortest head coaching tenure.

Tepper’s firing of Reich comes less than a month after he fired Charlotte FC head coach Christian Lattanzio on Nov. 8.

Of course, after buying the Panthers after an 11-5 season with a playoff appearance in 2018, the team has gone 30-63 for a 32.3 percent winning percentage.

Only the NBA Detroit Pistons (30.8 percent) and New York Jets (30.1 percent) have a lower winning percentage among teams in the 4 major sports leagues of the NFL, NBA, NHl and MLB.