The author of this article is Clark Gerber, a contributor for WRAL Sports.
At first, I was doubtful.
I was not familiar with Dave Canales and had not considered him as a potential top candidate for the Panthers’ head coach position.
There are many notable figures available this year, such as Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, and Mike Vrabel. I believe it would be beneficial for Carolina to pursue a top candidate in order to change the team’s culture and improve their performance.
Label me a fool, however after only a few brief weeks, my perspective has entirely shifted.
Canales is going to be a home-run hire for the Panthers.
In two years, he will lead them back to the playoffs.
Canales is skilled in offense, making him a more suitable choice than Belichick, Carroll, Harbaugh, or Vrabel since the success of this team depends solely on the growth of Bryce Young.
Canales did wonders with (former Panthers quarterback) Baker Mayfield this past season, whose physical profile is pretty similar to Young’s. Under Canales, Mayfield posted career highs in completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns, leading the Buccaneers on an improbable run to the playoffs.
Although the Buccaneers have Mike Evans on their team and the Panthers do not, there have been rumors that Carolina may sign someone like Tee Higgins during free agency. If this were to happen, it would greatly improve the Panthers’ chances.
According to Spotrac.com, as of Wednesday, the Panthers have approximately $31.03 million available in their salary cap.
Canales received a glowing evaluation from Mayfield during the Pro Bowl Games this week.
“He is an incredible person,” Mayfield expressed about Canales. “He is the first person I have encountered who consistently brings a positive attitude every day without faltering. They will be getting someone whose infectious personality will spread throughout the entire building.”
Discuss a catalyst for change in culture.
Mayfield’s praise for his departing former coach, who will be joining a division rival, was well-considered and detailed, showing his high regard for the coach. This was not the usual vague and generic language often heard in player interviews.
The Panthers’ front office, particularly their new general manager Dan Morgan, likely holds a similar view of Canales.
From 2010 to 2017, Morgan and Canales collaborated with the Seattle Seahawks. It is evident that Morgan advocated for him over more prominent figures such as Vrabel and did not even delay for Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who was highly desired by the Panthers during last year’s search for a head coach.
Canales is Morgan’s guy. Both spoke extensively about “alignment” in their introductory news conference, which is something that the Panthers really haven’t had since David Tepper bought the team.
A brief mention about Tepper – it’s worth mentioning that the owner of Carolina, who has received much criticism, only spoke for two minutes at the press conference last Thursday. According to Joe Person of The Athletic, Tepper stated to reporters afterwards that he would not be taking any questions because he is now “in the background.”
It’s happening! Alignment!
The main focus for the Panthers’ fresh pair will be creating a new atmosphere and restructuring the team’s lineup.
Morgan clearly has a goal — and it’s the correct one — of bringing in players who are “dawgs” on the field and embody the “Keep Pounding” mantra.
One could argue that it is insincere or superficial, but as a former member of the Panther team, Morgan understands that this is the necessary foundation for the franchise to achieve success.
Consider any successful Panthers team from the past. A key aspect shared by all was a hard-hitting offense that excelled at running the ball and a determined defense.
Retaining defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will likely have a positive impact. Despite facing numerous injuries in 2023, his team, the Carolina Panthers, managed to maintain a strong defense and ranked fourth in the league by only allowing an average of 293.9 yards per game.
For a team with a record of 2-15, this is quite a miraculous achievement.
The necessary components have been established at the highest level. The arrangement is present. The outcome now rests on the abilities of a 23-year-old quarterback, who is the cornerstone of the franchise, and a 42-year-old coach, who is new to the role but was recruited to improve the quarterback’s performance.
As a newcomer, Young had notable weaknesses in his performance. However, with a supportive team, I believe he has the capability to become one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL within a few years.
Canales deserves some patience too as he adjusts to his new role (something that’s going to be very hard to remember in the moment this fall), but I’m convinced that hiring him was a big step in the right direction.
The most important step for the Panthers at this point is to concentrate on their approach. They should stay focused day by day, week by week, and year by year, until they can once again be a successful football team. As I’ve stated before, I believe it will take two seasons for them to achieve this.
Put simply, continue to persist and persevere.