Not much has gone right for Carolina in an 0-6 start, and head coach Frank Reich announced an important change Monday, saying he’s handing playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.
“It’s always been part of the plan, something Thomas and I have discussed from the time he was hired,” Reich said Monday after a 42-21 loss to the Dolphins. “I’m excited for this for Thomas. I’m excited for our team and our offense. Thomas is a stud. He’s a great leader; he’s a brilliant offensive mind. We all have a lot of confidence in him.”
Brown, 37, becomes one of the youngest playcallers in the NFL, adding to a quick ascent through the coaching ranks. He had coached in college until 2020, then spent the past three years with the Rams learning from another precocious playcaller in Sean McVay. Brown has never called plays on his own before, though he was involved in the process with Reich and McVay, as well as under Mark Richt as the University of Miami‘s offensive coordinator from 2016-18.
“I think the timing is right,” said Reich, whose team is entering its bye week, giving more time for the change to take root before the Panthers play the Texans in Week 8. “This has been something, even from the beginning, that I have talked through with [owner David] Tepper and [GM] Scott [Fitterer]. We thought this bye week was going to be a checkpoint.”
Brown will now be even more centrally involved in the development of rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, who has struggled in his first five NFL games, especially compared to Texans rookie C.J. Stroud, who went second overall. Young has six touchdown passes against four interceptions, and Sunday’s loss to Miami was the first time in five games he had neither an interception nor a fumble.
Carolina has dealt with injuries on both sides of the ball, with both starting guards missing time, as well as top rusher Miles Sanders, who was inactive Sunday. The Panthers have struggled to find a deep-ball target to fill the void left when DJ Moore was traded to the Bears in the deal that landed them the No. 1 overall pick. Their yards per pass attempt is just 5.5, second-lowest in the NFL and ahead of only the Bengals.
Reich has handled offensive playcalling in his entire tenure as an NFL head coach, including his time with the Colts. Brown taking over playcalling should free up Reich to handle other aspects of the team — the defense has given up 31 points per game, second-highest in the league. Carolina has a strong offensive braintrust in place, with not only Reich and Brown but also quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and senior assistant Jim Caldwell all working together in Young’s development.
Brown played running back at Georgia and was a sixth-round pick of the Falcons in 2008, though he never appeared in a regular-season game. His coaching career includes stops at Wisconsin, Georgia, Miami and South Carolina before he joined the Rams staff in 2020, working with the running backs and later tight ends.
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It’s the second year in a row that the Panthers have made a coaching change in October. Last year it was more significant as the team fired head coach Matt Rhule and replaced him with interim Steve Wilks, a move that turned a 1-5 start into a 7-10 finish, with Carolina barely missing the division title. This is just a shifting of duties internally but one that could give the Panthers, already three games out of third place in a middling NFC South, a spark as they try to salvage the season.
“I knew it was not a question of if, just when,” Reich said. “The playcalling thing is still going to be collaborative. Thomas is going to lead it. He’s in charge of it. He’ll make the calls.”
Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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