CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Dave Canales will attempt to do what Frank Reich and Matt Rhule before him could not: turn around the struggling Carolina Panthers.
The NFL’s worst team agreed to terms with Canales, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator, to become their head coach Thursday night in hopes that he will help snap a six-year playoff drought.
The Panthers are 31-68 since 2018, tied with the New York Jets for the worst record in the league during that span.
Canales becomes the seventh head coach to lead the Panthers since David Tepper took over as owner six years ago. He inherits a team that went 2-15 last season and does not have a first-round draft pick in 2024.
“Dave’s background is rooted in success,” Tepper said in a statement on the team's website. “He has an innovative mindset and positive energy that connects well with players and staff. We are impressed with his ability to bring out the best in players.”
Canales, who is Mexican American, joins Ron Rivera as the second head coach of Latino descent hired by the Panthers.
He is one of four minority hires during this coaching cycle joining Raheem Morris in Atlanta, Jerod Mayo in New England and Antonio Pierce in Las Vegas, bringing the NFL total to a record-setting nine coaches of color, along with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Houston’s DeMeco Ryans, Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles, Miami’s Mike McDaniel and the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh.
The Seahawks and Commanders have yet to hire coaches.
The hire caps a meteoric rise for the 42-year-old Canales, who was working as the Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach in 2022.
He spent 13 seasons in Seattle, including eight with Dan Morgan, who was recently promoted as the Panthers general manager and president of football operations. Morgan replaced general manager Scott Fitterer, who was fired after the season.
“I’m excited to work alongside Dave again,” Morgan said. “His background coaching multiple position groups has given him a great understanding of what it takes to build a successful team. His infectious personality resonates with players and everyone who comes in contact with him. I’m confident that will translate to the field.”
Canales broke into the league in 2010 as the wide receivers coach in Seattle, where he spent eight seasons and helped the team win a Super Bowl in the 2013 season. He spent three more seasons as the team’s quarterbacks coach working with Russell Wilson and two as passing game coordinator before landing the Buccaneers job last year.
Canales helped the Bucs reach the NFC divisional playoffs with Baker Mayfield at quarterback in his first and only season as an NFL offensive coordinator.
“Excited for what's to come but right now just thankful for my time with the @Buccaneers!” Canales posted on X, formerly know as Twitter. “Amazing fans and organization."
Canales also thanked Bowles, the Buccaneers' staff and players.
“I'll be rooting for ya 15 weeks out of the year!” Canales wrote. "Thank You!!”
It's no surprise the Panthers chose a coach with an offensive background.
Canales will be entrusted with the development of quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft who struggled as a rookie. Young went 2-14 as a starter and averaged fewer than 180 yards passing per game and had just 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Canales' development of Mayfield may have left a lasting impression on Tepper. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick had struggled last season with the Panthers and was released late in the 2022 season.
But under Canales, he resurrected his career in Tampa Bay.
Mayfield completed 64.3% of his passes for 4,044 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season for the Bucs, who went 9-8 and won the NFC South in the final week of the regular season. Mayfield played well in the postseason as well as the Bucs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-9 before losing last week to the Detroit Lions 31-23.
Mayfield completed 62.3% of his passes in the postseason for 686 yards with six TD passes and two interceptions.
Wilson had his best statistical season in 2020 with Canales as the passing game coordinator, throwing for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. And Geno Smith posted his best season in 2022 with Canales as QBs coach, throwing for 4,282 yards with 30 TD passes and 11 picks.
The big question might be how much patience Tepper will have with Canales. ESPN reported that Canales received a six-year deal.
The Panthers fired Reich just 11 games into his first season as head coach this season after giving him a four-year contract. Tepper, who is 31-68 since taking over, hasn’t shown much patience with head coaches, also having fired Rivera and Rhule during the middle of previous seasons.
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