Why did the Panthers fire Frank Reich? NFL-worst record, David Tepper’s impatience led to coaching change

Frank Reich’s run in Carolina is over before it even truly began. 

The Panthers fired their head coach Monday, just 11 games into his tenure. Reich was in his first year with the Panthers after he was hired this offseason to replace interim head coach Steve Wilks on the heels of last year’s in-season dismissal of Matt Rhule. 

Carolina has named special teams coordinator Chris Tabor as the interim head coach for the rest of 2023. 

“I met with Coach Reich this morning and informed him that he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers,” team owner David Tepper said in a statement. “I want to thank Frank for his dedication and service, and we wish him well.”

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The decision to move on from Reich had been boiling for weeks. His seat had been hot awhile, and it came to a breaking point when Panthers dropped to 1-10 on the season after losing to the Titans in Week 11, their fourth loss in a row. 

Reich’s 11-game run marks the shortest tenure for an NFL head coach in 45 years.

Here is more on why Reich was fired by the Panthers:

Why did the Panthers fire Frank Reich?

As the season dragged on, it certainly felt more like when, not if, Tepper finally pulled the trigger on firing Reich. 

Carolina wasn’t expected to be a contender this year, with No. 1 overall pick QB Bryce Young in his first season leading the offense. It was viewed as a building block season, putting pieces into place to build for the years to come. 

The problem is, you can’t really build anything if nothing is going right, and nothing has gone right for the Panthers. At the time of Reich’s firing, Carolina’s offense ranked 30th in total yards per game (265.9), 30th in passing yards per game (173.3), 29th in rushing yards per game (92.6) and 29th in points per game (15.7). 

Reich’s involvement in the offense has been a spot of criticism during the year. He received heat in the middle of the season when he granted offensive play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, then reversed course weeks later and put himself back in charge of running the offense. Reich was especially scrutinized for his late-game decision during Week 10’s “Thursday Night Football” matchup against the Bears when he elected to try a lengthy game-tying field goal rather than go for it on fourth down. 

MORE: What Frank Reich’s firing means for Bryce Young, Panthers’ QB future

The defense actually has been OK this year for Carolina, ranking sixth in yards allowed per game (304.5) and fifth in passing yards allowed per game (179.6). But its run defense ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed per game (124.9) and 30th in points allowed per game (26.5). 

The end result is a league-worst record of 1-10. To make matters worse, the Panthers don’t own their first-round pick in 2024, as that was part of the trade with the Bears last year to land the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft to select Young. So there is no benefit to having a dismal season. 

Tepper also has a history of impatience with head coaches, and not just with the NFL. Since Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018, he has fired three head coaches — Reich, Matt Rhule and Ron Rivera. The team is going on its sixth head coach, including interims, in the last five seasons. 

He’s also the owner of Charlotte FC in Major League Soccer. The franchise began playing in the 2022 season, and is currently looking for its third head coach. Tepper fired Miguel Angel Ramirez after less than a year with the organization before tabbing Christian Lattanzio as the interim, and then promoting him to the franchise’s second head coach. Tepper then fired Lattanzio following the 2023 season after the team made its first MLS playoff appearance. 

The trend of Tepper’s impatience is why the Reich firing doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, it’s certainly going to be something that potential candidates will consider in the future when it comes to taking a head coach job underneath the trigger-happy owner. 

MORE: Breaking down players, picks involved in Panthers-Bears blockbuster trade

Who is Chris Tabor?

Tabor, the team’s special teams coordinator, takes over as interim head coach.

After an extensive career coaching at the college level, Tabor made the jump to the NFL in 2008 when he was hired by the Bears as an assistant special teams coach. He spent three seasons in Chicago before he was hired by Cleveland in 2011 to run their special teams, a role he kept until 2017. Tabor returned to the Windy City in 2018 as the Bears’ special teams coordinator.

He joined the Panthers ahead of the 2022 season as their special teams coordinator. Tabor’s promotion to interim head coach marks his first crack as a head coach in any capacity at the NFL level. 

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