What to Know: Panthers’ New Coach Dave Canales

The Carolina Panthers were in search of a coach with a strong offensive mindset to assist in the rejuvenation of quarterback Bryce Young‘s career. They have identified Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales as their potential solution.

According to sources from ESPN, the Panthers are making preparations to bring on Dave Canales, who is 42 years old, as their new head coach. The announcement was made on Thursday, as reported by ESPN.

According to a league insider, the specifics of the agreement have not been fully settled yet. However, they are confident that the contract will be completed.

Less than 24 hours after owner David Tepper, general manager Dan Morgan, and other members of the search committee met in person for an interview on Wednesday, the Panthers officially selected Canales as their top candidate. They had also conducted second interviews with both Ejiro Evero, the Carolina defensive coordinator, and Raheem Morris, the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams.

According to a source within the league, Evero, who has applied for multiple head coach roles, is being considered to continue as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator.

On Thursday, there was news that Mike Vrabel, who was recently dismissed as head coach of Tennessee, was going to be interviewed in Charlotte. This news came out when it was revealed that Canales was the preferred candidate.

Upon further examination, Carolina Panthers journalist David Newton provides insight on three crucial inquiries regarding the significance of Canales’ appointment for the team. National correspondent Dan Graziano analyzes the current buzz surrounding the hiring, while draft expert Jordan Reid assesses their potential choices with the absence of a first-round pick in 2024. Lastly, front office analyst Mike Tannenbaum evaluates the impact of the hiring by giving it a grade.

The Carolina Panthers have named Dave Canales, who previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as their third head coach in the last three years. This announcement comes after a string of recent coaching changes for the team.

What was the reason behind the Panthers’ decision to choose Canales?

Newton: During his time in Seattle (2010-2017), he had the opportunity to work with Morgan, the newly hired GM. At that time, Morgan was the director of pro personnel, while Canales served as the wide receivers coach. This prior experience created a sense of familiarity. However, Canales’ track record of developing quarterbacks was likely the most significant factor in his hiring. He previously worked with Russell Wilson (2020) and Geno Smith (2022) in Seattle, helping them achieve career-best performances while serving as the pass-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In addition, he also played a crucial role in the success of Baker Mayfield, who had struggled with the Panthers in 2022 but had a standout season this past year under Canales’ guidance as the offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers.

Canales is considering retaining Evero, who had applied for the position and met with two other teams. Evero’s squad ranked in the top five for overall defense in the previous season and he is currently under contract. According to a team insider, the ideal scenario would be to retain Evero and as many members of the defense as possible. Canales is also expected to consider keeping Chris Tabor as the special teams coordinator, who served as interim coach for 11 games after Frank Reich’s dismissal last season.

What is the effect of this on Bryce Young?

According to Newton, Canales significantly improved the performance of Wilson, Smith, and Mayfield by helping them surpass 4,000 passing yards and achieve career highs in touchdown passes (40 for Wilson, 30 for Smith, and 28 for Mayfield). Additionally, their completion percentages were also at career highs, with Smith leading at 69%. Canales has a talent for devising an offensive strategy that caters to the strengths of the quarterback and his teammates. This is exactly what Young requires after a disappointing season where he tied the record for the fewest touchdowns by a quarterback with 500 attempts and only completed 59.8% of his passes.

What are the main concerns regarding the Panthers’ roster for the upcoming offseason?

Newton: The main priority for the team is to reconstruct the offensive line, which allowed Young to be sacked a record-breaking 62 times. One of the decisions to be made is whether to keep left tackle Ikem Ekwonu in his position or move him to guard. Additionally, securing long-term contracts for outside linebacker Brian Burns and defensive tackle Derrick Brown is crucial, as they are the foundation of a strong defense.

The main focus will be on the offensive aspect, as Canales will have to find a fast No. 1 receiver and potentially a high-quality tight end to ease the pressure off of Young. The Panthers gave up their No. 1 pick in exchange for the top pick to select Young in the previous season, so they will have to rely on their first pick in the second round and approximately $40 million in salary cap space. Attracting skilled players to a team that has seen six consecutive losing seasons will be the biggest challenge.

What is the word around the league regarding the hiring?

According to Graziano, there has been a general belief among individuals I have spoken to over the past few months that Tepper was determined to hire a coach with an offensive background in order to optimize the potential of Young. Ben Johnson, the offensive coordinator for the Lions, was considered to be a top choice, but there are other teams who have shown interest in him, which creates a complication. People within the league have questioned whether or not Carolina would be able to attract highly sought after candidates due to concerns about instability and Tepper’s impatience. It should be noted that the team hired Reich as head coach this time last year, but ultimately fired him in Week 11.

Canales and Morgan have a history of successful collaboration, which is a positive sign. The hiring of Canales may have been met with skepticism, not due to his coaching ability, but because of Tepper. Some individuals I spoke with found it noteworthy that the Panthers would select a coach based, in part, on his success with Mayfield in 2023, considering the Panthers were unable to achieve the same results with Mayfield in 2022.

Canales and the Panthers are hoping that a player they are interested in will fall out of Round 1 and still be available at the No. 33 pick in April.

Reid: The main priority for the Panthers this offseason should be to upgrade the players supporting Young. In the 2023 season, only receiver Adam Thielen was able to consistently catch passes, and the Panthers had the lowest average of 9.3 yards per catch in the league. It is crucial for them to acquire multiple talented players, particularly those who excel at gaining yards after making catches, during this offseason.

Despite not having a first-round pick in April, the Carolina team may still have some good options for wide receivers at the No.33 spot. Two players, Xavier Worthy from Texas and Xavier Legette from South Carolina, are worth considering. Additionally, Malachi Corley from Western Kentucky and Ainias Smith from Texas A&M could also be potential choices if the team decides to wait until later rounds to address their need for wide receivers.

What would be your evaluation of this hiring decision?

Tannenbaum: C+. Canales may be a promising new offensive talent, but his limited experience as a play-caller raises some red flags. It’s clear that this hiring decision was focused on maximizing Young’s growth, and although Canales will undoubtedly play a role in that, his lack of experience is still a potential concern.