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Potential Head Coach candidates for the Carolina Panthers

Here is a list of prospective candidates for the Panthers now-vacant head coaching position

Atlanta Falcons v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are in the market for their seventh head coach, including interims, in David Tepper’s six years of ownership. There are only 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL. These are highly coveted and highly compensated positions, yet Tepper’s biggest challenge in hiring the right person may well be convincing that person to come work for David Tepper.

Early reports have Tepper, perhaps wisely, still set on another head coach with an offensive background. He wants somebody to develop Bryce Young into the NFL quarterback that many evaluators around the league believed he could be.Basically, he’s hoping the philosophy behind hiring Frank Reich wasn’t wrong so much as Reich was the wrong choice at the end of the process.

Here is a list and brief profile on some of the top names in and around the NFL with offensive backgrounds. This is not a list of candidates interested in the Panthers or that Panthers are interested in. We’ll bring y’all that info as the coaching carousel evolves. The Panthers will not, by NFL rule, be allowed to conduct in-person interviews of any coaches employed by other teams until after the divisional round of the playoffs*.

Ben Johnson

Here’s your fan favorite pick and one of the consensus hottest names on the 2023 head coaching carousel. Johnson is a North Carolina native and the offensive coordinator under Dan “bite their knees” Campbell with the Detroit Lions.

His work with Jared Goff is going to be a huge selling point for any team in the NFL. Add to that the top ten offense and top five rushing attack that he has helped build in Detroit and it’s not hard to understand why he’s going to be a hot name.

Johnson will have his pick of jobs, and is therefore highly unlikely to pick the Carolina Panthers unless he has some deep belief in Young’s future. He removed himself from consideration in the Panthers search after an interview last season. I expect him to do the same this season.

Bobby Slowik

The Houston Texans offensive coordinator’s name is skyrocketing up candidate lists this season after his work with C.J. Stroud. The Texans head coach is former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, so the league is giving Slowik a lot of credit for the team’s quick turn around with a rookie quarterback.

Brian Johnson

The Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator coach is the perennial “successful team’s OC” name that draws interest in today’s offense leaning NFL. He’s worth a look, but he’s only been a coach in the NFL for three years. That’s two years as quarterbacks coach with the Eagles and this year as their offensive coordinator and play caller.

Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh wanted this job last year and Tepper stopped returning his calls. If Tepper wants to keep hiring early Panthers quarterbacks then Harbaugh would be a great bridge to a future Steve Weinke or Jake Delhomme administration. He has experience working with young quarterbacks and success in both the NFL and college.

He’s also a big ego and that may be more than Tepper is willing to hire. Setting that aside, his track record of success and Super Bowl experience makes him a stone worth kicking over if he’s still willing to come work for this franchise.

Kellen Moore

You’ll recognize a lot of the names on this list from last year’s list. It’s funny how that happens when you do this every year. Moore is a young offensive coordinator with plenty of experience and lots of respect in NFL circles. He was the Dallas Cowboys offensivce coordinator for four years after one year as their quarterbacks coach and is now in his first year as offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers.

Moore took a lateral move with the Chargers to expand his reputation. The Chargers are currently facing calls to fire their own head coach, but that has largely been attributed to defensive malpractice than anything on the offensive side of the ball. Moore is going to be a head coach in this league some day. The question is whether or not somebody this year thinks the 35-year old coach is seasoned enough to run his own show.

Frank Smith

The AFC’s version of Brian Johnson, with just a little more experience. The Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator joined the team when Mike McDaniels was hired as their head coach. Smith has been coaching around the NFL since 2010 and is currently in his first coordinator role.

The biggest knock on him is going to be that he has not been calling plays with the Dolphins, a role that McDaniels has reserved for himself for the past two seasons. It is worth noting that McDaniels had not called plays under Kyle Shanahan in his one year as the San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator before being hired by the Dolphins.

Eric Bieniemy

Bieniemy has been on media short lists for head coaching positions for years now, with plenty of interviews and no hires. Rumors abound about him being difficult to work with or about his college DUI affecting assessments. His stock is down right now as he, like Moore, took a lateral move to get out from under Andy Reid’s shadow and bolster his resume as a potential head coach. That move to the Washington Commanders has been statistically productive but for an unfortunately noncompetitive team.

I don’t know what the full story is with him, but I do know that a guy who worked with Patrick Mahomes for five years as his offensive coordinator and has Sam Howell as the leading passer in the NFL in attempts, completions, and yards on a Ron Rivera coached football team is worth interviewing at least once.

*Playoffs are what good—and sometimes even mediocre—teams get to compete in after the end of the regular season. They are the pathway to the Super Bowl, a sort of championship game for the whole NFL contested each season, and are attended by the first place team in each division and the the top three teams in each conference that did not win their division. That means 14 out of 32 teams compete in the playoffs each year. We’ll bring you more information on this event when and if it ever becomes relevant to the Panthers.