Panthers Hire Dave Canales as Head Coach

Panthers Hire Dave Canales as Head Coach

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At the conclusion of a disappointing season in Carolina, all eyes turned towards the team’s search for a new head coach. The Panthers fired head coach Frank Reich in the middle of the season after just 11 games with the team, leaving the position open for the second straight offseason. After a round of interviews, the front office settled on Dave Canales, who spent the year as the Buccaneers offensive coordinator. While the current state of the team may not be very favorable, there’s reason to believe Canales can help turn the franchise around.

Canales to Carolina

With an abundance of head coaching vacancies in the NFL this season, the odds of landing a household name were slim. Not only did Carolina just finish with the worst record in the league at 2-15, but they don’t own their first round pick. With a messy roster and a lack of draft picks, restoring this team seems like a multi-year project.

Enter Canales, 42, who appears ready to take on the job. He already has some familiarity with this Panthers team, having played them twice this year while coaching their NFC South rivals in Tampa Bay. 2023 was Canales’ first year as an offensive coordinator, and he played a large role in the Buccaneers’ NFC South title run, and divisional round appearance. Only one year under his belt may seem concerning, but his recent track record offers plenty of reason for optimism.

Recent Success

Canales spent time as a quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, and passing game coordinator during his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks. The 2022 NFL season put him on the map, as he was the quarterbacks coach for Geno Smith during his breakout season. Smith had never met expectations coming out of college, but found new life as the starter in Seattle with the help of Canales. Smith was awarded with Comeback Player of the Year, a Pro Bowl invitation, and a new contract.

As for Canales, his success was rewarded with a job as the offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers. There, he sparked the resurgence of another quarterback’s career. Baker Mayfield, former number one overall pick for the Cleveland Browns, had signed with the Buccaneers after a disappointing season split between the Panthers and Rams. Mayfield won the starting job over the course of the offseason, and took off in Canales’ offense. He started every game en route to a career year, an NFC South title, and a Pro Bowl selection. After back-to-back seasons reviving a quarterback’s career, it’s clear why the Panthers are willing to take a chance on Canales.

Path to the Top

Similar to most coaches, Canales started out as a football player himself. He played wide receiver and defensive back at Carson High School in California, before playing college ball at Azusa Pacific University. During his time there, he tallied up 27 catches for 293 yards and a touchdown.

Soon after graduating, he would return to Carson High School as the offensive coordinator. He then made the leap to college once again, serving as a special teams and tight ends coach at El Camino College from 2006-2008. It was during this time that he formed a bond with Pete Carroll, then head coach of the USC Trojans. Carroll brought Canales on as a strength coach at USC for one year before they both jumped to the NFL, becoming a part of the Seahawks coaching staff.

Carroll became the head coach, while Canales spent the first seven seasons there as the wide receivers coach. In 2014, both coaches added a title to their resume as the Seahawks crushed the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Canales transitioned to being the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2018, thus beginning the domino effect that eventually made him a head coach.

What This Means for Carolina

A new head coach obviously means a complete culture change, something that should be welcomed by Panthers fans after the abysmal season they just witnessed. Canales has already started working on bringing in a team of new coaches, hoping to surround himself with more great football minds. The roster will likely see a sizable overhaul as well, as you’d expect following a season of this caliber. Canales can only do so much though, as the team’s top pick is the 33rd overall selection in the draft.

On the bright side, this is the result of the Panthers moving up to acquire their franchise quarterback last offseason. Despite a challenging situation, Bryce Young showed plenty of flashes of greatness in his rookie year. Fans have reason to be excited as he’ll now be paired with Canales, who has cemented his reputation as a quarterback whisperer. If he brings out the best in Young, just as he did with Smith and Mayfield, Carolina could begin seeing some return on their investments.

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Featured image courtesy of the Carolina Panthers.

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