Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Panthers fire Frank Reich, a move that immediately goes down in NFL history

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Turns out the window for NFL coaches to rebuild and turn things around, once considered between 3 and 5 years, is now more like a dozen games. At least that’s the way with the Carolina Panthers because they just fired head coach Frank Reich in his first season.

Reich, 61, is out as the Panthers have the worst record in the NFL at 1-10.

The Panthers announced the move in a statement from club owner David Tepper.


The club named special teams coach Chris Tabor the new interim coach. Senior assistant Jim Caldwell is the club’s new advisor to offensive play-caller Thomas Brown.

This move means the Panthers gave Reich 10 months to correct course for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2017.

So this firing goes down in NFL history because it represents one of the quickest dismissals of a coach ever.

A quick history lesson:

If one is looking for the shortest tenure for any NFL coach that has to be Bill Belichick’s time with the New York Jets. In 2000, Belichick was named head coach of the team to succeed Bill Parcells. Belichick had been the Jets defensive coordinator.


But at his introductory press conference, Belichick gave a resignation speech. He had no intention of being the New York coach and actually went to the New England Patriots instead.

That was not a firing.

The quickest examples of a hot seat becoming an ejection seat for an NFL coach then moves to George Allen who coached only two preseason games in 1978 before being replaced by then defensive coordinator Ray Malavasi.

That same year the San Francisco 49ers fired head coach Pete McCulley in his first season after a 1-8 start.

Lou Holtz, yes the Notre Dame guy, coached the New York Jets to a 3-10 record in 1976 before departing. But his was not a firing. Holtz realized the NFL game was not for him and resigned. He eventually went back to college ball and is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

So Reich joins that historic group now and the obvious question is why?

Well, the record obviously is the answer. The Panthers not only have the NFL’s worst record, but their record this year makes last season’s 7-11 mark seem like the good old days.

But how the Panthers reached that record doesn’t necessarily point to Reich.

It’s clear the club is a full top-to-bottom rebuild and yet they didn’t treat it that way even before Reich arrived.

General manager Scott Fitterer was hired in 2021 and last season was part of the decision to fire Matt Rhule five games into in his third season as coach. Along the way, the general manager made key decisions such as to decline a trade offer that would have sent pass rusher Brian Burns to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round draft picks.


Burns, 25, has been a good player for the Panthers in collecting 43 sacks the past five seasons but, well, two first-round picks.

Fitterer, seeing Burns as an anchor for the Panthers, didn’t share that view of running back Christian McCaffrey. He sent McCaffrey packing to San Francisco in exchange for second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-round draft picks over two drafts.

All McCaffrey has done with his new team is score 24 touchdowns in 20 games.

Fitterer also gave up two first-round and two second-round picks plus receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears to move up from the No. 9 slot in the draft’s first round to the No. 1 spot.

The Panthers used that pick on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. And their pick has struggled, throwing 9 TD passes and 8 interceptions.

This while C.J. Stroud, who was selected right behind Young by the Houston Texans, has thrown 17 TD passes with 5 interceptions.

All this has happened under Fitterer’s watch as well as Reich’s.

That doesn’t mean Reich hasn’t done some dubious things to merit scrutiny. His inability to get Young to play well consistently is an obvious problem.

Reich also took over play-calling duties at the start of the season, but gave them up in October when the Panthers were struggling. After three games, Reich took back the reins to the play-calling.

The Panthers didn’t produce to any satisfactory level with either Reich or offensive coordinator Thomas Brown calling the plays. The Panthers are averaging 16.3 points per game, which is fourth-worst in the NFL.

And the optics of the back and forth didn’t serve Reich well.

Reich was fired midseason by the Indianapolis Colts in 2022. So this is the second consecutive season Reich is relieved of his duties before getting through the season and the second consecutive season the Panthers fire their coach before the season is over.

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