You are now the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers. While this role may be far from the most glamorous in the NFL, the upside is immense. You get to take this five-year reclamation project into your own hands and flip it into a lucrative contender. Imagine all of the accolades, praise, and offers you will receive if you lead a team that won two games the season before to their first playoff berth since 2017. Imagine being responsible for building a winning culture and identity around a team and a community that’s been aching for it.
During your introductory press conference, take in the vibes of optimism. The promises of a new day and a new era are always inspiring. Team owner David Tepper will gas you up and sing your praises to the local media. You will receive bouquets of roses as he shows you off to the cameras. He’d call you the coach who will lead this team in years to come. He’d probably call you a ‘leader of men’. As you receive all of these roses on Day 1, remember to roll into Bank Of America Stadium with your guns and stick by them in the season ahead.
Welcome to the jungle, sweet child of mine!
I gave you what’s possible in this role. Now, I will give you what’s real.
Saying that the situation here in Charlotte is a hot mess is putting it mildly. You will inherit a roster that’s in flux. Brian Burns, your all-pro edge rusher has yet to sign an extension. Your offensive line can’t build a solid pocket around your franchise quarterback in Bryce Young. You have a corps of wide receivers that can’t get separation from opposing secondaries.
Your roster will make your job harder than it should be because your General Manager, Scott Fitterer constructed it. While his decisions were well-meaning theoretically, they did the team and the coaching staff no favors at all. There’s a possibility that you will at least have a new general manager, but you can never assume anything concerning this team.
Remember Tepper, the owner who proclaimed that you were the guy that this team needed to lead them? Well, his patience with you will thin. He wants to win in the worst way, and he may be a little more hands-on than you are used to. He will fire you at will after firing you up months ago to take this team to the postseason and beyond.
Don’t get me wrong, the role of Panthers head coach no. 7 will be tough. It will be painful and uncomfortable at times. What will get you through, however, will be your own pride and competitive nature. You have fought through a handful of candidates and a search firm for one out of 32 positions. You have the moxie. You have the goods to deliver. Do not waiver from that belief and respectfully stand your ground with Tepper. Don’t let him push you around and punk you. Never waiver from your football principles. If smash-mouth football and a solid defense get you wins, then roll with that. If you happen to have a roster that can throw the ball effectively with speedy receivers and ends that can keep the chains moving, lean into that regardless of what’s suggested. It’s hard to argue against results.
Another thing that will get you through is having the buy in of the locker room. The toughest thing in coaching is getting 53 Jimmy’s and Joe’s to buy into your X’s and O’s. The great thing about this roster is these men are fed up and sick of losing. They hustle, play hard, and for each other. There are no egos in this locker room. Just hustlers and fighters.
You have your work cut out for you. The Carolinas want a winning football team. You don’t have that much to work with now, but there is an opportunity for a turnaround. There’s an opportunity to build here. To evoke change. To provoke for the sake of change.
Welcome to the jungle. The games will start in September. It’s up to you to make them fun.