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Duce Staley, Jim Bob Cooter, and the Panthers coaching search

The Panthers are slowly, but surely building there staff.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are slowly but surely making moves on building their coaching staff under Frank Reich. Earlier announcements of the retention of both special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and offensive line coach James Campen have now been followed by the hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions assistant Duce Staley and an interview request to the Jacksonville Jaguars to talk to their current quarterbacks coach, Jim Bob Cooter, about the offensive coordinator role.

While some may be waiting anxiously to see splashy hires, the Panthers are instead working methodically. The idea—I hesitate to say “process”—is to turn over every stone and find the right guys, even if they have never worked together before. It’s a refreshing strategy after the nepotism that was perhaps the only common trait between Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule.

Duce Staley

You may recognize Staley’s name first as the former star running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. He won Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in 2005 and with the Eagles, as an assistant coach, in 2017.

Staley started with the Eagles as a special teams quality control coach in 2011, moved to running backs coach in 2013, and held that role until moving to the Detroit Lions in the same role under Dan Campbell in 2021. He has been an assistant head coach in both Philadelphia and Detroit since 2018.

In short, this guy is a big get for the Panthers. He’s a highly regarded name around the league, with the prevailing opinion that he is a future head coach in the NFL. Staley’s role on the Panthers staff has not been specified yet, as the team is still waiting on hiring an offensive coordinator. While Staley could be a candidate for that role, he is more likely to fit into a similar title to his previous “running backs and assistant head coach.”

The Detroit Lions could have blocked this as a lateral move, but Staley is being allowed the transfer so that he can be closer to his mother in South Carolina, who is experiencing health problems.

Jim Bob Cooter

Y’all might remember his name—and, honestly, how could you forget it—from the 2017-2018 head coach hiring cycle. He was a hot name as a young, offensive coordinator with the Lions just before the Panthers got into the market for anything new. Unfortunately for him, that Lions staff fell apart right after that coaching cycle and he has bounced around the league since in various capacities.

Most recently, he has been the passing game coordinator for Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has received a lot of the credit for Lawrence’s rejuvenation this season and figures to once again be a hot name—this time for a coordinator role—in the 2023 season.

Cooter has worked with Reich before, back in the Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts days and has recently been putting in time with Doug Pederson (2022) and Nick Sirianni (2021), so he is certainly familiar with the recent history of Reich’s offense.