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Dave Canales to Carolina: The Right Guy for the Job

The Carolina Panthers signed Dave Canales on Thursday to become the organization’s new head coach. Canales agreed to a six-year deal to be Carolina’s guy for the foreseeable future.

This is Dave’s first head coaching gig in the NFL. And while some can make the case the Panthers job was the least attractive opening this offseason, you first need to get the right guy at the helm. The Panthers have tried the last several years, rather impatiently. To show the turnover in Carolina, here’s what it looks like:

2020-2022: Matt Rhule

Matt likely overstayed his welcome, let’s be honest. This move could have happened the offseason prior but finished 11-27 in Carolina.

2022: Interim Steve Wilks

Wilks went 6-6 and many fans wanted David Tepper to hire Wilks, who now competes in the NFC Championship Game as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers.

2023: Frank Reich

Reich joins Nathaniel Hackett and Urban Meyer as the only ones who didn’t complete their first season as the head coach before getting fired.

2023: Interim Chris Tabor

Nothing changed when Tabor took over. The team was 1-10 under Reich and 1-5 under Tabor and perhaps the offense got worse once Tabor took over, finishing the season with two goose-eggs after a 33-30 home loss to the Packers.

The turnover here is why the Panthers job doesn’t look appealing. In any workplace, if they have had these major changes at a higher level in a short amount of time, it’s a cause for concern. Canales will enter as the fifth acting head coach since 2022. The Steelers have had FOUR in the Super Bowl Era.

Despite getting a six-year contract, one can only hope Canales will see all six years. I hope David Tepper stays the course, because for an organization to be healthy they need the right general manager, the right head coach and the right quarterback. They promoted Dan Morgan from within this week, they drafted Bryce Young #1 overall last year, and let’s find out who this Canales guy is.

 

THE JOURNEY OF DAVE CANALES

Canales was not a candidate mentioned often in coaching circles early on, especially by any of the Panthers media. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago as a possibility on The Cat Cave: A Carolina Panthers Podcast, powered by FFSN. If you haven’t followed Canales’ career, let me show you who he’s notably worked with.

Canales followed legendary USC head coach Pete Carroll from the Trojans to the NFL. Going from an assistant strength coach in 2009, Canales jumped to the NFL with Carroll as Seattle’s wide receivers coach (2010-2017). That’s a long time to be in one position, but then Canales began a transition in roles that would alter the course of his career.

Canales was named the quarterbacks coach in 2018. After working with Wilson as the QB coach and then taking on an additional role as the “passing game coordinator” (2020-2021), he had a heavy task in coaching the Seahawks quarterbacks without RW3 in the room, a Super Bowl Champion and one highly regarded as a Top 10 quarterback in his time in Seattle.

The Seahawks welcome Geno Smith in as a bridge quarterback and this is where the Canales Phenomenon begins. He would help resurrect Geno Smith’s career in 2022 and win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

His work with Geno was recognized by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so after Tom Brady’s retirement and potentially a placeholder in Baker Mayfield, the Buccaneers lured Canales away as their offensive coordinator. What happened? Very similar stats for Baker in Tampa.

 

RESURRECTED CAREERS

Resurrecting young quarterbacks is what Dave Canales seems to do best. Just look at the numbers for Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield in their season working with Dave Canales.

Geno Smith in 2022: 69.8% completions*, 4282 passing yards*, 30 touchdowns*, 11 interceptions, 62.8 Total QBR*

Baker Mayfield in 2023: 64.3% completions*, 4044 passing yards*, 28 touchdowns*, 10 interceptions, 54.3 Total QBR

      • Career-best noted by *

Canales took Geno Smith from being a backup to a sure-starter in the NFL. Canales took Baker Mayfield on his third team in as many years (one being Carolina) and showed he could compete at this level. Both Geno and Baker were counted out by fans and the media, yet Canales didn’t care. He found their strengths, adjusted his offense, and found success doing it. Both these teams reached the postseason that year. Carolina hopes for the same success this year.

 

WHAT THIS HIRING MEANS

Naming Dave Canales as your head coach, and promoting Dan Morgan in-house as your General Manager, tells me one thing: the organization is all in on Bryce Young. They’re determined to make it work.

Nobody should give up on Bryce Young after one season. If this was the case, we would’ve given up on Trevor Lawrence after one season. We certainly would’ve given up on a future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. And if anyone can fix Bryce Young and this offense, it’s Dave Canales.

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