Panthers39 to do list for Dave Canales and Dan Morgan Bryce

Panthers' to-do list for Dave Canales and Dan Morgan: Bryce Young's help is a priority – The Athletic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Four days after announcing the hiring of Dave Canales, the Carolina Panthers still have not officially introduced their new head coach.

And it will probably be a few days before Canales' opening press conference. This is a busy time for the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator.

Canales and recently promoted general manager Dan Morgan are expected to attend Senior Bowl practice this week in Mobile, Alabama. The format of the All-Star Game has changed: all underclassmen are eligible to participate, whereas previously only fourth-grade underclassmen were invited to Mobile.

But Canales and Morgan have more to do than just get a firsthand look at the 110-plus players at Senior Bowl practice. The Athletic looks at five things on the to-do list for the Panthers' new decision-makers, who were colleagues with the Seattle Seahawks for eight years.


The Panthers' Dave Canales has one job: get Bryce Young on the right path – he better not screw it up

Assemble the coaching staff

This is Canales' first assignment and it could be difficult when it comes to defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. Evero, 43, was passed over for Carolina's head coaching position, but the Panthers want him to stay as defensive coordinator.

According to a league source, Evero had a second interview for the Seahawks' head coaching job on Saturday and several teams are interested in hiring him as defensive coordinator. But Evero remains under contract with the Panthers, who can keep him from interviewing for sideline positions – already with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants. The Panthers ranked fourth in total defense under Evero, who also led a top-10 defense in 2022 with the Denver Broncos, who, like Carolina, had a coaching change during the season. With the Panthers facing a significant rebuild, Evero may be inclined to move to a contending team to improve his head coaching prospects.

Canales is expected to lean heavily on his ties to Tampa Bay and Seattle to fill his staff. Bucs receivers coach Brad Idzik, who came to Tampa with Canales from Seattle, is considered a leading candidate for the Panthers' offensive coordinator position. The Panthers have asked to speak with Seahawks assistant Tracy Smith about her special teams job, and Nate Carroll – son of former Seattle coach Pete Carroll – has also been mentioned as a strong possibility in Charlotte.

But the key is Evero. If Canales needs to add to the defensive staff, it could be a difficult process given Panthers owner David Tepper's reputation for meddling and the team's bleak outlook for 2024.

Ejiro Evero has interviewed with other teams but remains under contract with Carolina for another year. (Photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)

Complete front office restructuring

OK, technically this falls into Tepper's domain. And the next front office move has been planned for some time. As previously mentioned here, Tepper plans to bring in Brandt Tilis, vice president of football operations for the Kansas City Chiefs, as salary cap/contract manager to replace Samir Suleiman and act as a sort of buffer between Canales/Morgan and the owners.

The model has been successful in San Francisco, where John Lynch is president of football operations/GM (the same title Morgan holds) and Paraag Marathe is president of 49ers Enterprises and EVP of football operations. So what stopped the move? Well, the Chiefs made a Super Bowl run like they always do.


What happened to the Panthers? “Hunger Games” culture, backstabbing, and another fired coach

However, some other personnel changes related to Tepper are also worth mentioning. The Athletic confirmed this on Friday Canales doesn't retain Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor or offensive line coach James Campen, who had significant influence over Tepper after owner Frank Reich strongly encouraged him to stick with them from Matt Rhule's staff. The differing loyalties led to dysfunction and a “Hunger Games” culture in which assistants undercut other coaches and passed suggestions to management, ultimately resulting in the firings of Reich, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley during the Season culminated.

Look for at least one holdover on the offensive staff. Senior assistant Jim Caldwell, who participated in interviews during the Panthers' searches, is expected to be retained, according to a league source. Caldwell, the former head coach of the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts, could be an asset to Canales, who only has one year of experience as a full-time coordinator.

The chaotic nature of the Panthers' season impacted the development of Young, whose rookie season included a coaching change and three offensive flip-flops. Tight end Hayden Hurst said Young had “too many voices” in his ear in a year in which the No. 1 pick finished with an NFL-worst passer rating and was second to last (ahead only of the rookie) with a completion percentage of 59.8 the Tennessee Titans). Will Levis).

The porous pass protection and lack of receivers who could separate from coverage also contributed heavily to Young's rookie problems. But the coaches' inability to agree — even on the depth of Young's rebounds — didn't help matters.


'The Dave Effect': Dave Canales should bring positivity and energy to the Panthers, his ex-players say

Enter Canales, whose last two quarterbacks were either named Comeback Player of the Year (Geno Smith) or were finalists for the award (Baker Mayfield). Smith said Friday that there will be a different dynamic with Canales and Young, who will need more coaching than the experienced Smith needed. But the Seahawks quarterback said Canales has a knack for getting the best out of his players.

“His process is elite. And that’s more important to me than the results,” Smith said during a conference call. “Having an elite process and understanding how to get things done is very, very important, especially when moving to a new team. Dave has a great understanding of himself and knows what he wants to achieve. He gets to know the players he coaches, gets to know them as men, learns what motivates them and then he’ll work from that.”

As a rookie with the Panthers, Bryce Young threw for 2,877 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 16 starts. (Jim Dedmon/USA Today)

Decide how you feel about Brian Burns

You may have heard: The Panthers don't have a first-round pick this year. This probably popped up on your social media feed too: This pick now belongs to the Chicago Bears and is the first overall pick.

So Morgan can wait until he's at the top of the second round, or the former Panthers linebacker can try to arrange a trade to get into the first round. Morgan was the acting GM in 2022 when Scott Fitterer declined the Los Angeles Rams' offer of two future first-round picks and a Day 2 selection for edge rusher Burns, who was at that point in his second Pro Bowl season in a row.

The Panthers have since failed to reach a long-term deal with Burns, whose performance fell sharply in 2023 as he said he was struggling to stay healthy at times as he and several of his defensive teammates struggled with injuries. Burns finished with eight sacks, just above his career low of 7 1/2 in his rookie season.

Burns is a strong candidate for the franchise title, which is expected to cost more than $20 million in 2024. Morgan could decide to tag and trade Burns. The return wouldn't come close to what the Rams offered, but the Panthers could probably get a first-round pick.

Get help for Young

This would be at the top of the list if we hadn't organized the items chronologically. Before Morgan and Canales decide whether Young is a big-league QB – we can assume Morgan is, since he was part of the brain trust that picked Young over CJ Stroud – they first need to give him some better playmakers and Give pass blockers to evaluate him fairly.

Canales spent last season with Bucs wideout Mike Evans, a notorious Panthers hitman who is a free agent this year. Morgan and Canales don't have a direct connection to Tee Higgins, but they should also be involved with the Bengals' free-agent wideout. Also on the free-agent receiver list are Michael Pittman Jr. and Gabe Davis, the Buffalo Bills' fourth-round pick in 2020 when Morgan was in Buffalo's front office under Brandon Beane.

If the Panthers are thinking about adding another receiving tight end, Canales knows Noah Fant, who had several big seasons in Denver before heading to Seattle as part of the Russell Wilson transfer. Last year, when starters Brady Christensen and Austin Corbett returned from surgeries, Fitterer failed to adequately address interior depth.

The Panthers need to add a few linemen this offseason, possibly a tackle if they decide to move Ikem Ekwonu inside. An insider to keep an eye on: Seattle guard Damien Lewis, a 2020 third-rounder from LSU who moves well despite weighing 326 pounds.

(Top photo by Dave Canales: Cliff Welch / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)