New Coach Dave Canales, Gm Dan Morgan Seek Winning Formula For The Struggling Carolina Panthers

Dave Canales holds a football after a press conference introducing him as the new head coach for the Carolina Panthers NFL team in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Dave Canales holds a football after a press conference introducing him as the new head coach for the Carolina Panthers NFL team in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — New Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales and general manager Dan Morgan brought plenty of energy and enthusiasm to their introductory news conference on Thursday.

Now the big question is if they can bring wins?

That won’t be an easy task as they take over a Panthers team coming off a 2-15 season and that hasn’t been to the playoffs since owner David Tepper purchased the team in 2018.

Carolina is 31-68 during that span, tied with the New York Jets for the worst record in the league.

“My timeline is today,” Canales said of winning. “It’s first-and-10 and I have a new set of downs and my whole call sheet is at my disposal — and I've got a bunch of fantastic people to go to work with today.”

Morgan, who spent seven seasons playing linebacker with the Panthers, was promoted to replace Scott Fitterer as GM and director of football operations.

He said that the culture in Carolina needs to change and that starts with the personnel.

“When teams drive up to this stadium we want them to fear that (Panthers) logo,” Morgan said. “Our logo has to be feared again, because right now it’s not. So we have to get that back.”

Morgan said that starts with finding some “dogs,” citing several former Panthers players as examples.

"We want players like Steve Smith who play with a chip on their shoulder — no holes barred, and he's not taking any prisoners. We need those type of guys," Morgan said. “And the instincts and tenacity of a Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, guys like that who make plays. We need playmakers. And we need competitors like Jake Delhomme, guys that are going to compete in everything they do and are not going to stop until the win.”

Morgan added that he wants players who are “hungry” and going to “inflict pain on their opponents.”

Tepper, who has been criticized for micromanaging the football process, appears to be ready to take a step back.

He introduced Canales and Morgan at the news conference but did not take questions. When asked afterward if he would consider doing interviews, Tepper responded, “No, I'm in the background now."

Morgan wouldn't say who'll have final say in personnel decisions between he and Canales, adding "it’s about constant communication and being aligned in everything that we do.”

Canales was hired to get the best out of quarterback Bryce Young, last year's No. 1 overall pick who struggled as a rookie with nearly as many interceptions (10) as touchdown passes (11).

Canales has experienced success working with smaller quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson in Seattle and Baker Mayfield in Tampa Bay and is confident the 5-foot-10 1/2 Young has the potential to be a great player.

The Buccaneers won the NFC South title and beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-9 in the first round of the playoffs in Canales' first season there as offensive coordinator.

Canales said he wants Carolina to develop an identity on offense, and indicated establishing a running game is vital to taking some of the pressure off Young.

“There is a way to win games in the NFL and it's defense, it's the run game and it's an explosive pass game that comes off of that run game,” Canales said.

One of Canales' goals will be getting the ball out of Young's hands quicker. He was sacked 62 times in 2023, second most in the NFL behind Washington's Sam Howell.

“In the pass game it’s getting the ball out in 2.7 seconds or less,” Canales said. “That's been a really important number for us in Seattle. Being able to track that for decision-making, for route-timing and protection, that all kind of fits into that really good brand of football that is complementary.”

He also said protecting the ball will be a priority.

Panthers guard Austin Corbett said he liked the energy he saw from Canales on Thursday, saying “you can tell it’s not fake either. It’s easy to see through when it’s fake.”

Canales has plenty of work ahead of him, including filling out his staff.

There has been speculation he'll bring on Buccaneers wide receivers coach Brad Idzik as his offensive coordinator, but the Panthers say that deal still hasn't been completed.

Regardless, Canales will call plays on offense.

Canales also said he hopes the Panthers can retain defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who he called a “huge piece” for the defense. Evero, who is still under contact with Carolina, interviewed for head coaching jobs in Carolina, Atlanta and Seattle. The Panthers have denied him permission to interview with other NFL teams for a lateral move.