CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers have agreed to terms with Frank Reich to become their new head coach on Thursday.
The 61-year-old Reich joins the Panthers after spending the past four-plus seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, where he went 40-33-1 as head coach before being fired on Nov. 7 after a 3-5-1 start. The Colts went to the playoffs twice as a wild-card team under Reich, going 1-2 in the postseason.
For Reich, the hire represents a return to Carolina where he spent one season as the team’s quarterback and started the franchise’s inaugural game in 1995.
Reich inherits a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2017 — and hasn’t won a postseason game since winning the NFC championship in 2015 with league MVP Cam Newton at quarterback.
The Panthers have been searching for stability at quarterback ever since Newton began struggling with injuries shortly after the team’s 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers cut Baker Mayfield earlier this offseason and Sam Darnold is an unrestricted free agent, so Reich will have a key say in the future of the team’s quarterback situation.
As of now, Scott Fitterer remains the team’s general manager.
Prior to joining the Colts, Reich worked two years as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles helping them win the Super Bowl in his second season under head coach Doug Pederson.
Reich spent 14 seasons as an NFL quarterback and has been in coaching since 2006 when he initially joined the Colts as an intern.
Panthers owner David Tepper has been eager to establish a winning program since purchasing the team for a then-record $2.3 billion in 2018 from Jerry Richardson, who sold the team amid allegations of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.
The Panthers are 29-53 since Tepper purchased the team and have never won more than seven games in a season.
Reich becomes the sixth full-time head coach of the Panthers, following Dom Capers, George Seifert, John Fox, Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule.
Rivera is a minority, but the Panthers have never hired a full-time Black coach. They’ve had two Black coaches who’ve worked on an interim basis — Perry Fewell and Steve Wilks.
The Panthers interviewed nine candidates for the job, including Wilks, who went 6-6 last season. Wilks took over for Rhule, who was fired by Tepper less than three seasons after giving him a seven-year, $72 million contract.
Rhule was 11-27 overall, and the Panthers were 1-4 when he was fired.
Among the others who interviewed included former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Detroit Lions and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and four NFL offensive coordinators — Kellen Moore (Cowboys), Shane Steichen (Eagles), Mike Kafka (Giants) and Ken Dorsey (Bills).