Some head coaching hires don’t move the needle much, like Brian Callahan to the Titans (no offense!). Others are more obvious big names like Jim Harbaugh to the Chargers.
Dave Canales accepting the Carolina Panthers’ head coaching job is a sneaky big deal. It’s a ballsy move by both parties.
As things stand right now, the Panthers are a carnival of a clown show of a catastrophe of a franchise with an impulsive owner in David Tepper who throws drinks at opposing fans when he’s upset about how f*cking terrible his team is. Canales is defecting from an NFC South rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to take on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that carries more risk with it than your standard vacancy.
This opening might’ve been more attractive had Carolina not traded away the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft in order to move up eight spots and draft Bryce Young with the first pick in 2023. Young had a disastrous rookie campaign that got his coach Frank Reich fired before the season even ended. He’s the smallest QB in NFL history, with a dearth of skill position talent at his disposal, along with marginal arm strength and athleticism by pro football standards.
At least Canales will have a familiar ally and a Panthers franchise legend working in lockstep with him in ex-linebacker/newly minted GM Dan Morgan.
Dave Canales and new Panthers’ GM Dan Morgan spent eight years together in Seattle from 2010-2017. Now, they’ll soon be reunited, leading the Panthers as their new HC/GM combo. https://t.co/EAAOxyzZIW
If there’s anyone who can get the most out of Young, you’d expect it to be Canales. He was the quarterbacks coach for Geno Smith when the Seahawks signal-caller won Comeback Player of the Year. Canales took the opportunity to be a first-time offensive coordinator in Tampa this past season, and resurrected the career of Baker Mayfield, who’s a CPOY finalist for the reigning division champion Bucs.
I was watching Canales’ presser before the Divisional Round, and he spoke about how tough it was to uproot his family from Seattle to go to Tampa. Canales began his time with the Seahawks as their wide receivers coach in 2010. He held that role until 2019, when he got promoted to passing game coordinator for a couple years. Then, it was QBs coach.
What if Canales is a hit in Carolina? Seattle will have watched a brilliant offensive mind who was groomed in their organization shine somewhere else, when they could’ve made a convincing pitch to bring him back.
Canales is merely the latest proof that having a defensive-minded head coach makes for quite the uphill battle in the modern NFL. Look at how Geno and Baker had their best seasons with one year apiece under Canales’ guidance. Geno regressed in 2023; Baker will have a new play-caller as his career-long theme of lacking continuity persists.
Now there are only three vacancies left. I would’ve thought Tepper would throw the bag at Belichick by now. Mike Vrabel was supposed to meet with the Panthers today. That ain’t happening anymore. Is it really possible that Belichick and Vrabel won’t get hired by anyone? We’re talking about two of the very best coaches in the NFL. If anything, Canales’ hiring only cools the market for Belichick and Vrabel even more.
It seems like NFL franchises are beginning to wise up by employing offense-centric head coaches almost across the board. Otherwise, you face the real possibility of annual turnover at key spots on your staff. Texans OC Bobby Slowik is a hot name. How will CJ Stroud build on his historic rookie campaign with a new play-caller? Not taking anything away from how well DeMeco Ryans did as a rookie head coach, but it’s gonna be tough on Stroud if Slowik leaves Houston.
I feel like Slowik or Lions play-caller Ben Johnson will fill two of the three remaining vacancies, thanks in part to Canales’ hiring in Charlotte. I suspect Seattle sticks with its defensive identity (because that’s just what they do) and employs Dan Quinn as Carroll’s successor. In an NFC West division with the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay in LA, that seems like a ballsy move. Canales might’ve been at least semi-capable of hanging with those two studs from a schematic standpoint.
To circle back to the Canales of this, since it is, in fact, about him: If I were him, I would’ve tried to get back to Seattle, or stayed put in Tampa for one more year. In fact, among the other still-open spots, I’d have tried to pitch myself/taken a flier on the Commanders’ new Josh Harris-led ownership. If I were to stay in the NFC South, I would’ve preferred to go to Atlanta, where there’s far superior talent and the chance to acquire a new QB who I could help mold, rather than being hitched to a 5-10, 180-pound passer.
Whatever. Money talks, right? But hey, if Canales can turn Carolina into a winner, more power to him! They’ll probably be picking high in the 2025 draft. Let’s hope for Canales’ sake that Tepper doesn’t have a quick trigger finger like he did on Frank Reich.