Who is Dave Canales? What to know about Panthers’ new head coach, including Buccaneers, Seahawks experience

The Panthers hired quarterback guru Dave Canales as their new head coach to see if he can guide Bryce Young to NFL stardom.

Ahead of the 2023 season, Carolina hired another quarterback guru in Frank Reich to coach their No. 1 overall draft pick. But Reich’s tenure only lasted 11 games, in which the team went 1-10.

The Panthers went back to the drawing board and have reportedly landed on Canales, the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator. He will be the 10th coach in franchise history.

The Panthers drafted Young first overall in the 2023 NFL Draft after trading up with the Bears. He struggled in his 16 starts in his rookie season, completing only 59.8% of his passes for 2,877 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Carolina went 2-15 overall, securing the first overall pick for the Bears in the 2024 draft.

The decision to hire Canales as the next head coach comes as a bit of a surprise, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. He served as an offensive coordinator for just one season in Tampa after spending 13 years in various roles with the Seahawks.

MORE: Why Panthers’ hire, Falcons search complicate Bill Belichick’s future

“He had a lot of the Pete Carroll-type intensity and positivity the way that he worked things in Tampa Bay, he came from Seattle, that mentality that he had he was consistent,” Garafolo said. “It’s not fake. …

“That’s why we talked about Dave Canales as a potential head coach down the line after an impressive year as the coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and for Baker Mayfield. For it to happen this quickly — quite the surprise given that 12 months ago very few had ever heard of Dave Canales.”

Here is how Canales went from the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator to the Panthers’ head coach.

Who is Dave Canales?

Canales is one of the fastest-rising coaches in the NFL. He is just 42 years old but has spent his entire professional career as a coach as he worked his way up the ladder.

Where did Canales go to college?

Canales went to college at Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian college in Azusa, California.

He played football there as a wide receiver from 1999 through 2003. He served as a captain in 2002 and 2003. During his final season, he caught 27 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown.

Dave Canales coaching timeline

When Canales hung up his cleats, he immediately picked up a play sheet. Canales returned to his high school, Carson High in Carson, Calif., as the head coach of the freshman/sophomore team coach and the offensive coordinator.

He held that role from 2004 to 2005 before he moved to El Camino College, a community college in Alondra Park, Calif. He coached special teams and tight ends there in 2006 and coached quarterbacks in 2007 and 2008.

Canales also spent time working at Pete Carroll football camps and began to learn from the then-USC head coach before ultimately taking a job to work on his staff in 2009.

When Carroll left for the Seahawks’ job in 2010, Canales went with him. He began coaching wide receivers, a role he would hold for eight seasons, during which time he won a Super Bowl with Seattle. 

Canales became the quarterbacks coach in 2018-19, during which time Russell Wilson had two of his best seasons, with quarterback ratings of 110.9 (career high) and 106.3 (third-best of his career).

In 2020, he shifted to passing game coordinator, then switched back to quarterbacks coach in 2022. That season, he played a crucial role in helping Geno Smith become one of the most surprising breakout quarterbacks in the NFL.

In February, Canales left Carroll’s staff to join the Buccaneers as their offensive coordinator.

In Tampa, Canales once again worked his magic with a quarterback. Mayfield, who struggled after a breakout 2020 season, joined the Buccaneers as a free agent and had a resurgent campaign. He completed 64.3% of his passes for 4,044 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Buccaneers won the NFC South and bested the Eagles in their NFC wild-card matchup before losing to the Lions in the divisional round.

Dave Canales family

Canales is married to Lizzy Canales. The couple have four children together: Ashby, Benjamin, Beatrice and Amaya.

His wife wrote a book on their marriage published in September 2022: “This Marriage? The Question that Changed Everything.” The book received praise Wilson, who wrote:

Dave’s authenticity and humility are genuinely awe-inspiring not only as a coach for the Seattle Seahawks but, more importantly, as a friend of God! His servitude and compassion is gravitating. His adoration for Lizzy inspires me daily. Lizzy is not only a Proverbs 31 woman of God, but she is an angel on earth. She is an inspiration for women by the way she loves. Their book is a must-read if you want a lasting marriage. Jesus first, always!

Dave Canales ethnicity

Canales is Mexican-American, making him only the fifth Latino head coach in NFL history. He is also the second Latino Panthers head coach, following Ron Rivera.

Along with Canales and Rivera, Tom Fears, Tom Flores and Brian Flores are the other Latino NFL head coaches.

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