Why the Panthers Hired Dave Canales: Carolina Brings in Former Bucs OC as Head Coach

The Panthers have a new head coach. On Monday, Carolina tabbed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales as its next HC.

The Carolina Panthers are hiring former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales as their next head coach. Canales replaces interim head coach Chris Tabor, who filled in for the fired Frank Reich at midseason.

Why the Panthers Hired Dave Canales

The Panthers are giving Canales a six-year contract, possibly indicating that they’re willing to show some patience with the rebuild. In addition, Canales becomes the only active Hispanic head coach and just the fifth in league history following former Carolina HC Ron Rivera, Brian Flores, Tom Flores, and Tom Fears.

The Panthers promoted assistant general manager Dan Morgan to the full-time role earlier this week, and his selection as the club’s personnel chief seemed to immediately turn Carolina’s head coaching search in Canales’ direction.

That’s because Morgan and Canales already have a prior working relationship, as both men worked together with the Seattle Seahawks from 2010 to 2017. Morgan was working his way up the club’s front office ranks, while Canales was Seattle’s wide receivers coach.

While that shared history likely aided Canales’ candidacy, he’s done more than enough to earn the Panthers’ head coaching role on his own.

Canales, promoted to become the Seahawks’ quarterbacks coach in 2018, helped revitalize former journeyman QB Geno Smith’s career in 2022. Smith’s turnaround enabled Canales to land the Buccaneers’ OC position heading into the 2023 campaign.

In Tampa Bay, Canales spearheaded another quarterback rescue. The Bucs signed veteran Baker Mayfield to a one-year, $4 million contract over the offseason, hoping he could provide some semblance of production in what was supposed to be a post-Tom Brady reset for Tampa Bay.

MORE: 2024 NFL Head Coach Interview Tracker

Instead, Mayfield posted career-best production, setting new marks in completion rate (64.3%), passing yards (4,044), and passing touchdowns (28). He kept his interception rate below 2%, nearly sliced his sack rate in half, and finished 18th in the NFL with a 54.3 QBR.

Mayfield showed clear development during his year with Canales. Now, the Panthers are hoping the former Tampa Bay OC can work wonders with another former No. 1 overall pick.

Grading the Panthers’ Dave Canales Hire

Canales has already put his QB-whisperer skills on full display over the past two seasons. Can he get 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young’s career back on track?

Reports have suggested that Reich, former general manager Scott Fitterer, and owner David Tepper weren’t on the same page about drafting Young last season. C.J. Stroud, who went No. 2 overall to the Houston Texans, posted one of the greatest rookie QB campaigns in NFL history in 2023, further spotlighting Young’s struggles.

It’s difficult to sugarcoat just how poorly Young played during his debut. He ranked dead last in adjusted net yards per attempt, while only the New York Jets’ Zach Wilson finished with a worse QBR or EPA per play output.

Of course, Young’s issues don’t fall entirely on his shoulders. While Young bears some responsibility for his 10.5% sack rate (fourth worst in the league), the Panthers’ offensive line fell apart, finishing bottom 10 in pass-rush and run-block win rate.

Young’s offensive weapons weren’t much better. 33-year-old Adam Thielen was Young’s WR1, while DJ Chark and rookie Jonathan Mingo largely failed to contribute. Free agent addition Miles Sanders, signed to be Carolina’s bell-cow running back, lost his starting job to Chuba Hubbard as the season progressed.

The Panthers are one of the most directionless franchises in the NFL, and they need a problem solver in the building. That’s why they hired Canales.

He’s repeatedly demonstrated his ability to simplify complex situations and adapt to the strengths of his players. While Canales only has one season of play-calling experience, his previous work in Seattle and Tampa Bay should give Panthers fans a reason to celebrate.

Grade: B+

How Old Is Dave Canales?

Canales is 42 years old. He played college football at Azusa Pacific University before coaching at his high school and El Camino College.

While working at El Camino, Canales developed a relationship with then-USC head coach Pete Caroll that opened numerous opportunities. Canales joined Carroll as the Trojans’ assistant strength coach in 2009 before following him to the Seahawks in 2010.

Who Else Did the Panthers Interview For Head Coach?

  • Brian Callahan, OC, Bengals
    • Interviewed on 1/18; second interview was scheduled
  • Ejiro Evero, DC, Panthers
    • Interviewed on 1/11; second interview on 1/22
  • Ben Johnson, OC, Lions
    • Interviewed on 1/19
  • Mike Macdonald, DC, Ravens
    • Interviewed on 1/11
  • Todd Monken, OC, Ravens
    • Interviewed on 1/11
  • Raheem Morris, DC, Rams
    • Interviewed on 1/17; second interview on 1/24
  • Dan Quinn, DC, Cowboys
    • Interviewed on 1/17
  • Bobby Slowik, OC, Texans
    • Interviewed on 1/18
  • Frank Smith, OC, Dolphins
    • Interviewed on 1/16
  • Chris Tabor, interim HC, Panthers
    • Interviewed on 1/10
  • Mike Vrabel, former HC, Titans
    • Will interview on 1/25

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